Below is the fourth installment in the series.
In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria dealt a crushing blow to the villa rental business the BVI. Damage ranged from some villas escaping completely unscathed to some needing just minor repairs to many with significant damage such as roofs being blown off to many that were in the path of tornados that the hurricane spawned and were completely destroyed.
To give some perspective on the impact the hurricanes had on the villa rental sector, Lucienne Smith of Smiths Gore, which offers luxury villa rentals in the BVI, was interviewed for an article in the Guardian Magazine. According to the article, Smith estimated that, as of late 2017, around 20% of such villas were available for rent. In addition she stated that due to the lack of available accommodations, “Many [villa guests] have chosen to support the BVI by having this year’s holiday on a charter yacht with the hope of coming back to a land-based holiday next year.”
Fortunately, since the end of 2017, the BVI has made significant progress in repairing and reopening villas for vacation rentals. According to BVI Traveller’s database of BVI Rental Villas, as of July, 2018 approximately 101 villas are open for business and while 109 remain closed. So in 6 months they have moved the needle from roughly 20% capacity to 48% of their pre-Irma capacity – nothing short of a herculean feat!
The bad news is that while many of the closed properties are scheduled for repair and rebuilding, there will certainly be a significant number that will decide to throw in the towel and remain closed permanently.
Looking forward to the 2019 tourist season, the good news is that BVI Traveller has received reports from villa owners and rental agencies indicating that an additional 29 villas will come on line by year end. Thus we are forecasting about 60 to 65% will be open for business as enter 2019. One caveat, however, is that even though they are open doesn’t mean that they have bookings. I am told by several local villa brokers that demand is still extremely soft.
One reason for the soft demand could be a lack of response by the BVI government in the on-going clean up effort. A huge amount of destruction and debris still remain on all of the islands except Anegada which was spared the brunt of Irma. This is a huge negative to those wanting to stay on land in a villa, but despite all the rhetoric, the BVI government doesn’t seem to have a solid plan nor the money or manpower to get it cleaned up.
All in all, the villa rental sector has made significant progress, but comparatively lags far behind the recovery in sailing sector which will approach 80% to 90% as we enter 2019.