Two lawmakers from opposing sides of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) parliament are upbeat about the boost the local tourism industry may receive from the current visit by former President of the United States Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
The couple touched down at the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport after dusk last evening, and immediately proceeded to billionaire Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
It is yet to be seen if they will leave the private island and travel elsewhere in the territory that has been whipped into a frenzy over the visit.
The BVI has been a ‘must visit’ destination for celebrities, but the Obamas’ coming was enough to surprise even the Junior Minister of Tourism Archibald Christian.
“I was surprised,” he said when contacted by BVI News Online.
“I think, as a country, we are honoured and privileged to have persons of their calibre visiting. I know that one of the things the BVI is recognized for is that we have a number of celebrities that come here, and they get a level of privacy.”
Christian hopes the couple will enjoy the territory.
“Despite the fact that a lot of people may want to see him (Mr Obama), and touch him, and shake his hand we have to accept that he is on vacation and deserves some level of privacy.”
“Even though I am an elected member [of the House of Assembly], I don’t have any information on his itinerary. But I hope that his host will be able to take him around to the various islands including Tortola,” Christian said, adding that the Obamas’ visit has placed the BVI in good stead.
“As it relates to our tourism product, I definitely think it will give us a positive boost because persons now are anxious to want to come to the BVI. The BVI is in a very good place today; today is a very good day for the BVI…”
“President Obama is perhaps the most popular person in the world right now, having just left the White House. Even though he made an interim stop in California, you could effectively say he came straight from the White House to the BVI,” said Christian.
Meanwhile, Opposition parliamentarian Andrew Fahie told BVI News Online that the Obamas’ visit coincidentally provides the territory with publicity at no cost.
“I am proud to know that we have someone of that calibre vacationing here in the British Virgin Islands. It will help our tourism product because we get publicity that we don’t even have to pay for, and it will also help in terms of many other areas, because for him to come and see the territory he will be able to testify for himself that we are a very good destination and a very good people.”
Fahie, in the meantime, applauded Mr Obama for his just-concluded leadership of the United States over the past eight years.
“President Obama is someone who is admired by many persons including myself. He carried the office well as President of the United States, and he is a living testament that it doesn’t matter how one starts; he proves is that it matters how one finishes.”
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