Government has made a big injection in the tourism budget and as a result the Director of the BVI Tourist Board (BVITB) Sharon Flax-Brutus has announced that product development and market expansion plans are top among the 2020 targets to revitalize and grow the BVI tourism product.

Flax-Brutus who has in the past mentioned that her organization was doing its best with a small budget announced that it was good that the Government increased the allocation from $10.5M to $15 million for 2020. This increase reflects the appeal made by the Director of Tourism during her appearance before the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) in 2019.

At that time the Tourist Board Director stated that the budget had been $10.5 million since her appointment to the post six years ago. At that meeting many of the Members of the House of Assembly also expressed support for the Tourist Board budget increase.

Now with a 50 percent increase of the funds the Director said that more strategies are going to be implemented to improve operational efficiency. The increased budget of the Tourist Board is expected to greatly influence its global marketing strategy, infrastructure and product development and training.

In explaining how the funds would be balanced between tourism development and the marketing of the Territory the Director stated that the BVITB does the best they can with what they have. She noted that there is a program in place that involves the cross utilization of employees as there is a lot of work to be done. She said that it is important that they find a balance and that the new budget does not include any increases for staffing as they feel that the money they have should be spent on marketing the Territory. She also said that they do take care of staff by ensuring that they are comfortable and have a decent work environment.

For 2020, Flax-Brutus noted that the BVITB plans to expand its presence in the UK and European markets, as well as explore new and emerging markets such as the Scandinavian countries due to their love for sailing.

In a quick update on the state of some aspects of BVI Tourism the Director explained that the charter yacht industry has fully rebounded and the land-based accommodations are 60% recovered when compared to pre-storm levels.

The previous $10.5M budget was rather low and did not provide funds to advertise on US national television like some of the competitors have been able to. Flax-Brutus said that the Board found it quite expensive to do so; she further stated that the only time they had been able to have any national advertising of any sort was via their arrangement with Miami Open where they were able to have international advertising spots.

In an attempt to remedy that problem Flax-Brutus said that the Board has been working with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) who will be launching a programme in 2020 that takes into account national advertising of the Caribbean.

Plans for 2020

With the additional funding BVI tourism is expected to see big improvements this year, in Anegada the Tourist Board is planning to add an additional lookout and trail for the Conch Shell mounds, while in Virgin Gorda it will be rebuilding lookouts and the Post Office in North Sound; as well as the old Post Office in Spanish Town so that it can be turned into a maritime museum. On that sister island the Board also intends to use the Washing Rocks in The Valley as an additional attraction.

On Jost Van Dyke the improvement plans include placement of lookout sites (with telescopes), park benches and hammocks throughout the island. While on Tortola the Tourist Board is planning to acquire the Dungeon for use as an additional historical site as well as  revitalization of a tourism village in Carrot Bay and  further development of the Nottingham Estate heritage village. The organization is also interested in further development of the Sugar Works Museum’ and the placement of a Visitor’s Information Centre at Trellis Bay

It was noted that chief among the projects is the Carrot Bay Project, which the TB Director explained is an initiative that the cruise industry is looking at in order to provide guests with a cultural experience that is different than any other Caribbean island. She further stated that Carrot Bay has been identified as a Heritage Village and that the idea is to create a village that showcases the way BV Islanders lived long ago.

Flax-Brutus stated the initiative will incorporate various cultural aspects such as the local fishermen, bread baking, the shell museum etc. She indicated that work on this project has already begun and that a meeting was held to look at the preliminary architectural plans. She noted that it will be a phased project and that they are taking into consideration that it will have to be a mixed use facility.