STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE ELEVENTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION
OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
Thursday 12th August 2021
UPDATE ON THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
Mister Speaker, I am pleased to deliver the following report to this Honourable House with regard to the Territory’s tourism industry and the work that is being done by the BVI Tourist Board which is an agency under the Premier’s Office.
Since the reopening of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on 1 December, 2020, to welcome guests back to our shores in the COVID-19 era, the Virgin Islands has realised steady increases in tourist arrivals into the Territory, particularly after February 2021.
In July 2021, the Territory had 7,208 total guests entering, which was the highest volume we have had since the reopening.
Some 3,766 of those guests entered the Virgin Islands through the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport, 2,933 through the Road Town Jetty and 509 through the West End Ferry Dock which was designated last month as a fully vaccinated port of entry.
While these numbers are not as high as what the Territory was accustomed to experiencing in pre-COVID-19 times, the steady increase since the reopening of our international borders shows promise that the industry is reviving as vaccination makes travelling to the destination easier for our visitors from around the world.
As is customary, some of the accommodation and yachting sector have decided to close from August through October to ready themselves for the upcoming season and to prepare for the hurricane season.
However, many have decided to keep their doors open to take advantage of the annual Staycation Campaign where locals are encouraged to vacation in the destination, and the pent-up demand for travel internationally.
The staycation program started on 15th June, 2021.
However the 7:00 p.m – 5:00 a.m curfew implemented on 9 July, 2021, because of the recent sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, has slowed the campaign as well as international visitors, even though we experienced the most tourists in July to the Virgin Islands since the reopening.
We know this because of cancellations that were conveyed to the BVI Tourist Board.
This was unavoidable in the circumstances.
Nonetheless, Mister Speaker, it is anticipated that the newly implemented 11:00 pm – 5:00 am curfew, the recovery of most of the COVID-19 cases in the Territory, and the pent-up desire to travel internationally will give the industry a much-needed boost in these most challenging times and looking forward.
One yacht charter company explained that their bookings through September are reminiscent of 2019 during this time, and that they are thrilled with the bookings for 2022.
Another charter company described their bookings at the start of the peak season as phenomenal.
This is a testament to the hard work that your Government through the Board of Directors and the team at the BVI Tourist Board, along with the industry, has done marketing the destination worldwide.
This is a testament to the hard work that the BVI Tourist Board along with all our stakeholders and partners in the industry have done marketing the destination worldwide.
Of note, Mister Speaker, a North American summer campaign through Travel Zoo, which was executed between 24th May – 24th July, 2021, is one of the reasons - in addition to the relaxed protocols - for the increase in visitors in July. Travel Zoo is a global media commerce company with more than 30 million members in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
It is important to note that June through October is considered the off-peak season when the number of visitors traditionally fall.
Some persons have been asking for the number of persons allowed on the ferries to be increased, as this is a popular mode of travel for some categories of visitors.
Of course, the number of persons allowed on the international ferries is dependent on local factors as well as factors in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands, and your Government is in constant contact and dialogue with our counterparts there to ensure that all that can be done is done and everything that can be accommodated in this COVID-19 era is accommodated.
We have seen where prior to the recent increase in positive reported COVID-19 cases on our shores, the number of ferry passengers allowed had been gradually increased since the reopening of the international sea ports in mid-June.
So, as we continue to bring the number of COVID-19 cases back down, members of the public can expect to see the allowed ferry capacities going back up. Of course, keeping the ferry capacity up and the traffic volumes up – both for air and sea arrivals – requires everyone doing their part to ensure that we keep the COVID-19 infections down.
By now, I am sure everyone is aware that this requires wearing our masks, frequent sanitising and washing of hands, maintaining social distancing, and adhering to the other protocols and advice.
Vaccination is a powerful tool to help us to keep the numbers down, to keep people safe, and to aiding the continuity of business activity and tourist arrivals.
Vaccination remains voluntary in the Virgin Islands, and your Government continues to urge persons to consult their medical doctors on whether they have any medical concerns that should bear on their decision to vaccinate.
And once they are so advised by their doctor, they should vaccinate. Again, we respect persons’ right to choice.
Mister Speaker, the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board continues to market the destination worldwide to keep the momentum that has been gained thus far under the campaign, “Something to Celebrate”.
All promotions of the British Virgin Islands to the world from the BVI Tourist Board are driven by the overarching theme BVILOVE.
It is our new look, a new feel, a new perspective, and most of all in the midst of ‘The New Regular’ living, working, and visiting in the Virgin Islands in COVID-19, which has changed the world forever. This means that we have had to move forward from branding ourselves as a nature’s little secret. That was not a different era, a different time.
I congratulate the BVI Tourist Board for championing BVILOVE and I would like see more marketing, collaboration and partnership between the BVI Tourist Board, Ministries, departments, and industry partners.
BVILOVE simply means ‘Love Our Virgin Islands Every day.’ Indeed, having this fresh perspective and this new branding for the BVI as a destination is important in creating the excitement and the interest we want as we invite visitors to experience the Virgin Islands.
Mister Speaker, with a focus on Sailing, Villas, and Eco Tourism, in North America, the BVITB has restarted to attend face-to-face consumer events and continues to execute virtual events to keep the destination top of mind with trade partners.
Our destination continues to be featured in some of the top publications worldwide, and host top travel influencers to share their experience in the BVI with their followers.
Two face-to-face events that have been attended by the BVI Tourist Board were:
- Ultra Luxury Travel Trade Show in Texas
- The Peninsula Travel Show in Florida
Webinars are conducted monthly in conjunction with industry partners. This week the BVITB is attending a very prestigious web-based event called Virtuoso Travel Week.
Virtuoso Travel Week allows the team at the BVI Tourist Board to have 300 one-on-one appointments with the top luxury travel advisors in the World.
Virtuoso, known in the industry as a Consortia, is one of the world’s leading travel industry luxury networks, with the top producing travel agencies, and members from over 40 countries covering 6 continents.
The Consortia is made up of stringently vetted travel advisors (who specialize in helping to create curated travel itineraries for their very discerning clientele), and also targeted travel partners (hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, destinations, etc.).
Virtuoso partners and advisors are renowned for their world-class customer service and uniquely curated experiences.
Some of the publications that the destination has been published in print and digitally are
- AFAR Media
- Modern Luxury
- Travel Zoo
- Bridal Guide
- Hamptons Magazine
- Key Biscayne Magazine
- Miami Magazine
- Northrop and Johnson
- Ocean Drive Magazine
- Sailing World
It is important to note that in July the destination realised 33,491,079 impressions and for the year the destination realised 2,746,829,965 impressions thus far. An impression is a metric used to quantify the number of digital views or engagements of a piece of content, usually an advertisement, digital post or web page.
This is as a result of the work executed by the Government of the Virgin Islands through the BVI Tourist Board and the industry partners. Additionally, social media influencers are continuously vetted and sent to the BVI to share their experiences. This continues throughout 2021.
The BVITB also is also increasing its activity in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Nordic Region. While these countries continue to struggle with COVID-19 like the rest of the world, the BVITB and its industry partners cannot ignore that these markets represent potential visitors as our travel infrastructure continues to improve.
In Germany plans are being made to attend AGK Cinema Road Show in November. A road show is an event that allows for industry trade partners like travel agents and travel influencers to socialise and learn about the destination with the intent of influencing potential travellers to choose the destination.
Plans are also afoot to attend the Trade Fair Interboot in Friedrichshafen Germany from 18th -26th September 2021. This event is designed to attract sailing enthusiasts to the Territory. Other activations in the other countries are planned to ensure that the destination can realise its share for the upcoming peak season.
The recent spike in COVID-19 cases placed the destination on the Amber list from the Green list for the United Kingdom. Being on the amber list means that travel from the UK will be more difficult with regard to quarantine stipulations for Brits.
However, the BVITB along with the industry continue to execute virtual events as well as in person promotions to showcase the destination in preparation for when the winter months set in and a hopeful return to the green list.
To name a few, here are some of the publications that the industry partners in conjunction with the BVITB have secured coverage:
- TTG Luxury
- Steffen Michels
- Metro Online
Additionally sails on our BVI Branded Yacht for public relation efforts are planned for the balance of the year along with plans to have a Road Show being explored in the region.
Plans are also being made for this year’s Food Fete. COVID-19 has forced changes to the events that have not been finalised, however this year the BVI Tourist Board and the Department of Culture will work together to execute a Tourism and Culture month that will showcase the culinary and artistic prowess of the destination.
The Product Department continue to execute hospitality training in the Territory in preparation for the peak season, and the implementation of hospitality infrastructure that will allow for improvement when we are not operating at our peak. Taxi training are being planned as well to ensure that when the cruise ships return that our frontline is ready to go.
The industry is resilient. The peak season promises to be one that will witness the revival and re-energising of the Tourism Industry.
Your Government through the BVI Tourist Board continues to execute hospitality training at various tourism sector businesses to reinforce the hospitality training that was provided at H L Stoutt Community College.
This training has been conducted and continues to be available and is ongoing in all districts. Understanding that our hospitality is what will set us apart, this is a very important initiative. Taxi training continues Territory-wide as well. No district left behind.
On Virgin Gorda, the North Sound Sub Post Office which was destroyed in Hurricane Irma has finally been rebuilt to showcase the history of the Territory. Locations have also been approved for the installation of signage that will allow for picture taking opportunities on Virgin Gorda, Tortola, and Anegada.
Additionally, throughout the Territory, beach safety signs are being installed that were destroyed by Irma.
As a Government, we cannot emphasise enough how important it is that we do everything possible to keep the COVID-19 positive cases down – both in terms of saving lives and also for the sake of the economy and all the businesses and individuals who depend on our tourism industry reopening fully and staying open without interruption.
We must recognise and remember that our visitors want to know that they will be safe when they come to the Virgin Islands, and that their vacation, their plans and their experience will not be interrupted or curtailed, so that they can get the full benefit and enjoyment of the time and money they are spending to come to the Virgin Islands.
Our BVI tourism industry is resilient. Our product is resilient. And our team is working hard to ensure that we are able to benefit to the fullest from the potential of our tourism resources.
I thank you, Mister Speaker.