Since the hurricanes Irma and Maria struck information regarding the BVI’s progress towards recovery in the tourism sector has been hard to come by. The government has discussed numerous long range plans to bring tourists back to the islands including improvements in infrastructure, possible airport expansion and the return of cruise ships to the port, but very little about where the islands stand right now.
The question on many people’s minds, especially the 3,000 residents who depend on the tourist industry for their livelihood, is “Where do we stand now and how will the BVI be positioned for the 2019 tourist season.” Visitors are also clamoring for solid information on the condition of the BVI. News channels actively covered the hurricanes Irma and Maria and their aftermath as destruction and human suffering makes for good news. But now news coverage of the recovery is practically nonexistent. Potential visitors to the territory, however, still have the images of the massive destruction imprinted in their memory. They are now planning their 2019 vacations and need to decide if they should avoid the BVI and visit another island or if they should return knowing that a major chunk of the repair and rebuilding in the territory has been completed.
Since the hurricanes struck, BVI Traveller has been covering the recovery effort with daily reports on businesses that have rebuilt and reopened for tourists. With reports on over 300 businesses completed and over 225,000 visits to its web site, it is now widely recognized that BVI Traveller has played a significant role in the recovery of the BVI tourism sector. Consistent and positive coverage has convinced visitors to book yacht charters and stays in hotels and villas rather than cancel their plans to return. Here is the first installment in our five part series on the progress to date.
While delivering the 2018 Budget Address Premier and Minister of Tourism Dr. D Orlando Smith gave a clear picture of how severely last year’s disasters affected the local tourism industry, noting that the industry has been set back by five years in some sectors.
He explained that in 2016, the BVI exceeded the one million visitor mark for the first time in its history recording increased arrivals across all visitor sectors including cruise ship, overnight and day-trippers and accounting for visitor expenditures in excess of $482 million USD.
Then Dr. Smith delivered the sobering news for 2017 as he said, “The historic and unprecedented disasters of 2017 threw the industry into chaos and diminished the revenue potential as well as the product. Overall visitor numbers recorded at the end of 2017 showed total arrivals of 756,151, a decrease of 387,922, representing a 33% decline,” and effectively taking the territory back to 2013 levels.
The bright spot appears to be the while this is a terrible blow to the BVI, Dr. Smith emphasized that the territory is committed to the tourist sector. He offered, “But we must continue to tell the story of the British Virgin Islands and maintain high visibility in the international tourism space. We must steadfastly protect our brand in the global market place. We have to take advantage of the marketing opportunities and ramp up our spend to tell the world exactly what is taking place with our product and when they can expect to enjoy our beautiful islands to the fullest.”