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REPORT: BVI tourism showing massive declines

Visitors aboard a cruise ship docked in the BVI recently. (BVI News photo)

A recent report from the BVI Tourist Board has shown that the territory’s tourism statistics are facing massive declines.

While citing the stats, Junior Minister for Tourism Archibald Christian has called on government to pay more attention to the industry.

He said the yachting sector has seen a significant drop in the number of vessels berthed in BVI waters. Similarly, the hotel sector is at an all-time low in available rooms for rent.

According to the report, berths before the hurricane were about 3,800. But, as of April 1 this year, berths had fallen to 1,500.

Excluding Airbnb properties, room inventory before the hurricanes stood at 2,800. That number has dropped to 407, which represents an approximate 85 percent decrease.

Gov’t must play its part

Christian lamented the plummeting tourism statistics while participating in the 2018 budget debate in the House of Assembly on Thursday, April 26.

“If the BVI is to remain very competitive in the Caribbean and indeed the wider world, then we have to do our best. I am one of those who believe we need to pay serious attention to the issues that are related to tourism.”

He continued: “We know for a fact that whenever we come to this Honourable House to deal with matters that are concerning financial services and the industry, we are extremely prudent, committed and dedicated to ensuring that we do what is necessary for that industry to continue to thrive. And I think we need to be more committed and dedicated to the pillar of tourism.”

Local Airbnb properties available

Christian said despite the territory losing a significant amount of its room count, there are Airbnb properties that are currently available for rent.

Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging.

The junior minister said the legislators need to “begin to look seriously at supplementing the rooms that we have with those villas and those Airbnb rooms that are available”.

He said the roads also need attention.

“Whatever policies that the government need to come up with so that the roads in the BVI are available for the next four to five years need to happen. And we need to do so with haste.”

Major cruise lines have said road infrastructure is among the areas which need to be ‘up to par’ before they return to the BVI.

In the meantime, Christian said though BVI tourism numbers have plummeted, the territory is still dominating St Lucia, Antigua and St Kitts in relation to overnight visitors.

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34 Comments

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  1. Laura says:

    William Hazlitt, the British Writer once said,” First Impressions are often the truest, as we find (not infrequently) to our cost, when we have been wheedled out of them by plausible professions or studied actions. A man’s look is the work of years; it is stamped on his countenance by the events of his whole life, nay, more, by the hand of nature, and it is not to be got rid of easily.”

    We’ve all heard the expression, “first impressions are lasting impressions,” and it’s true. Once the foundation has been made, it becomes very difficult to change it. Hence why the first impression is extremely important because it creates the granite foundation for the way in which people perceive us. It provides people with the glasses through which they see us. We do not get a second chance to create a first impression. Everyone gets just a single chance and they have to make the best out of it. If you spoil your chance, you will have to work very hard and for a very long time to reconstruct your image.

    We have got to dedicate resources to making a greater first impression (even if they have visited before, they need to be treated like their new) to get visitors coming back pronto!

  2. Salas says:

    $16 per person per day cruising permits for foreign vessels may have something to do with it. USVI boats are actively cutting down the amount of days they come into BVI waters. 1 week with 8 passengers is nearly $900…what would you do if you were running a business?

    • Worker Bee says:

      It’s not so much the fees, as it is the obnoxious welcome tourists receive from HM Customs and Immigration.

      • Da Truth says:

        Dats da truth!

      • CW says:

        They are not helpful and seem to delight in causing others misery

      • Interested Observer says:

        That hit the nail on the head. They are arrogant and down right vile. 30 people in line takes 2 hours. I thought after the hurricane they might get some sort of directive telling them to welcome tourists and not to make it seem like thay wish they wouldn’t came there.

        A little like our tsa little people with an attitude

  3. wow says:

    BVI is going to be at the bottom of the Caribbean chain real soon if recovery isn’t sped up. And Lord help you guys when you do hit rock bottom if you guys aren’t already there.

  4. Concerned islander says:

    Cut does visitor fees, cruising permit fees and departure taxes. Just too expensive to come and leave the BVI.

  5. Cpt Philip Cerne says:

    Arrive on a Sunday and you pay additional fees for the government worker, usually $20 per person in the office.
    The government needs to test the immigration workers, fees are never the same amount.
    If you arrive at noon, leave the next day at noon, should be one day. No, that is two.

  6. vg resident says:

    Tourism is down. No surprise. How about making sure the Virgin Gorda airport gets opened quickly. How about repairing the roads? The road to my villa is dirt and washes out every rain storm. It is a public road and needs repair and paving. How about providing potable water? The water plant at South Sound needs total repair. No wired internet or wired telephones. How about increasing the speed of the internet? So many things were bad before the storm and are worse now.

  7. VG frequent guest says:

    First impressions are important. A lot has been done to clean up areas like Savannah Bay Beach etc. and deserve applause. However what are the first impressions from guests exploring the island when they drive down South Sound Rd and see piles of storm debris that should have been taken to the landfill but are instead dumped along both sides of the road. The North Sound water plant area is a disaster and dirt road should be paved. The things guests see and use are important like the VG airport, roads, and beaches. It is unthinkable that there are rental villas without potable government water. These should be easy budget decisions for any government interested in promoting tourism.

    • CW says:

      Your last sentence explains it: this BVI government has no interest in tourism, only whining that they can’t shelter human trafficking and drug smuggling with their financial sector anymore. All the other off shortly countries are pivoting to tourism, but not BVI. They just make announcements about “responding” to things. No actual progress.

  8. Concern says:

    Why is this so alarming, all major hotels in Virgin Gorda are closed either for renovations and now for repairs. No hotels, no place for people to stay. Easy math.

  9. VG says:

    It is alarming but the slow pace of government is scary. The BVI Tourist Board tries their best but are NEVER given the resources to do what they are capable of doing. They are always asked to DO MORE WITH LESS and they expect EVERYTHING TO BE DONE WITH NOTHING. The slow pace of allowing workers in to assist, the slow work permit process, the slow insurance process and the list goes on and on. Yes a lot of the hotels and villas on VG are still being worked on

  10. E. Leonard says:

    Tourism and financial services are the “twin pillars” of the BVI economy. And any weakening/stumbering of one or both of the support pillars will cause the economy to tumble. Two Cat 5 catastrophic hurricanes, Irma and Maria, unleashed their fury on the VI on 07 and 20 September 2017, respectively, resulting in approximately $3.6B in property damages. The damages caused by the hurricanes had a severe impact to the tourism industry.

    Further, the BVI neighbors and tourism market competitors, ie, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint/Sint Martin/Maarten……..etc were also impacted by the hurricanes but their recovery effort seems to be in full sprint, taking tourism market share away from the BVI. Consequently, the BVI must ramp up its effort and step up its game to maintain its current market share, along with taking steps to increase its market share. High quality infrastructure, tourism facilities, attractions……etc are vital to boosting and sustaining tourism.

    As such, focus is needed on roads, water, sewage, electricity, marine ports, improved airlift, telecommunications , drainage…….etc. Focus is also needed on tourist major attractions, ie, Sage Mountain Nat. Park, The Bath Nat. Park, Gorda Peak Nat. Park, Rhône Nat. Marine Park, Cane Garden Bay Beach, J.R. O’Neal Botanic Garden……….etc; additional attractions needs to be improved and brought on stream.

    Moreover, tourism may not contribute as much to GDP as financial services but it provides more direct, indirect and induced employment. However, both services combined contribute the lion share to the GDP, ie, 85-90%. The BVI has a number of needs on/in its bucket list; nevertheless, rejuvenating/reenergizing the tourism industry must be one of its top priorities.

  11. Uncle Buck says:

    BVI needs a lot more than good roads to boost tourism.

  12. Richgdgy says:

    You guys think maybe Drugs and Crime might be a factor??

  13. Maggie says:

    I was just there. Even though a massive amount of work has been done, there are huge amounts of trash everywhere. Abandoned wrecked cars, boats and heavy machinery.
    The mountains of piled up destroyed buildings, what is the plan for that?
    Devoted tourists are still coming but there needs to be a plan for recycling if you want to attract new tourism.
    None of the hotels remain. Millions of dollars of outside investment are required to buy the land and to develop resorts that people want to stay in. That is years away yet.

    • Rubber Duck says:

      And the encouragement to investors? Get yourself down to the labour department and line up to get a work permit to run your investment. Oh and pay though the nose for it. Wait 6 months for a trade license.? Half the hotels will never reopen because the owners are sick of trying to do business here and there is no one lining up to take over.

      • CW says:

        We have been trying to work with them for a decade to bring a tourism product that generates $40k EACH WEEK but nobody is interested in being responsible or actually working to improve their own future.

        BVI ACTS ENTITLED

  14. See says:

    High fees to visit and our territory is one big garbage dump . And remember this is all not the result of the hurricane . Junk cars and boats have made us look like a dump . Why would be surprised that tourusts have had enough ?????

  15. Home Boy says:

    Someone mentioned about the BVI will soon be at the bottom of the chain in the Caribbean as it relates to our recovery and tourism. As it stands presently we are at the bottom of the chain. Hon Christian said we are ahead of St Lucia, Antigua and St Kitts and Nevis when it comes to overnight visitors. He got to be joking, he really didn’t know what he is saying, those three islands a full speed ahead and we will and can never catch up with them.

  16. DC says:

    So very tired of the loose lip service giving by these representatives who act as if they are not apart of the same party in power. The people want to hear more solutions and suggestions on ways to build up and improve the current circumstances. We don’t need you to play politics with our circumstances. The country has suffered impact from two cat 5 hurricanes and serious flooding. Come on man… obviously there will be some significant changes in figures. You’re the elected official bring something to the table to offer realistic solutions. Where is your heart for the country and it’s people? Stop playing politics!!!!

  17. state of emergency says:

    long bay hotel, peter island, prospect reef, biras creek, little dix, bitter end, frenchman’s cay, hodge’s creek, fort burt and couple more all gone so wha ayo expect?

  18. Scary Mary says:

    The destruction caused by the hurricanes is not easy to ignore. It is in your face wherever you look. Aside from the obvious physical and infrastructural damages, a few, much more difficult problems must be corrected before the BVI can hope to fully recover from our recent devastation.

    Firstly, our collective attitude towards outside workers MUST improve. The “us against them” mentality has to be set aside once and for all. We need “them” every bit as much as they want to be here. We don’t like to face the truth, but the truth is that we need their (outside) expertise, their work ethic and their ability to get the jobs done properly – the FIRST time. We simply don’t have the numbers to be able to satisfy all the expert knowledge we require. We are a VERY SMALL COUNTRY with a VERY SMALL POPULATION – and cannot possibly do everything ourselves.

    We need to open our doors and (more importantly) our hearts to outsiders who can provide the expertise and knowledge we so desperately need. We need to eat a little humble pie, put a stop to the blatant resentment of outsiders and make the work permit process much less adversarial in nature. We NEED them – they DON’T NEED us!

    Secondly, we need to pull up our socks when it comes to taking an interest in our own communities. It is our nature and perhaps it has become part of our culture to rely much too heavily on government for just about everything. We have become lazy, greedy and entitled. We never used to be that way back in the day, but we certainly are now. If there is still debris (a full 7 months after the hurricanes) surrounding your house, or on either side of the road leading to your house, start taking things to the dump, piece by piece if necessary.

    If you need help, talk to your neighbours and offer to help them in some way if they will help you. If you don’t have a vehicle to transport debris, then ask a neighbour to help. Do something for him/her in return. We KNOW we can’t rely on our current government for much of anything, so our only possibility for progress is a good, healthy dose of self-help.

    Try for a while to put your country first for a change. Do things FOR THE GREATER GOOD. Do good and necessary things without expecting to be paid or given anything in return. Do it because your country NEEDS you! Do it because that’s what your grandmother and grandfather would have done – and they had the right attitude about life in general.

    • CW says:

      Two days after Irma a Local guy told me on facebook- and I quote: “we don’t want your help- you are a tourist. All you want to do is visit and you don’t care. You are part of the problem and not wanted here. Stay away.”

      So I called my friend in Trinidad and told him to send our boatload of concrete, rebar, and generators to PR. I am an American citizen and wanted to support BVI first. Us vs them headset indeed!

      BVI strong is a joke.

  19. same law for everyone says:

    i will say it again,west end customs in a tent after 6 month,this the 1st thing you see as tourist,ridiculous,get a trailer as soon as possible until better option.ask them what they think now,they think the same believe me .

  20. Julia says:

    Do you think it has to do with the $75/pp customs fee for day trippers?!?

  21. Concerned says:

    When will the government learn that it has to cean up the BVI 1st. For get new airports and deals with fake airlines and cruise shipcompanies. Go back to basics, to Nature’s Little Secret’s, the Charter industry. For get the fees. Take a lose until the trade is up to speed. That industry will do the work and bring back tourism.

  22. Stephen says:

    Hello I am a visitor, former charter boat owner and soon to be a new charter boat owner. My wife and I have been visiting the BVI twice a year for 10 years and 7 years ago bought a new sailboat and had it managed by one of the charter companies on Tortola. It was a large investment but worked well and more importantly allowed us to spend time in Paradise often. We mah\de friends with local people and it was comfortable a home away from home. My boat sank when Irma hit, fortunately, I had insurance.

    I made some modest donations to various groups in the BVI and a more helpful donation to the staff at the charter company that managed our boat. But I knew the best way I could help the BVI recover was to invest in the economy because it would generate more tourism and jobs for the long term. I had the insurance money and could have just banked it and taken the safe route which some people advised me to do. But I would not abandon my friends and a place I love even if I am only a visitor and outsider. I took the insurance money and added more and I ordered a brand new boat. It is being built in Europe now and will be delivered to Tortola just before Christmas.

    What happened last autumn was devastating and I can only imagine how hard it has affected all of the citizens who live in the BVI. People cannot just let the depression control them or nobody will help if they feel the good people will not react and make that very difficult and demanding effort to invest in their future. There is a lot of damage and debris but the islands are still there, the Caribbean is still there and all the beauty and prosperity is still there it is just covered up in garbage and storm damage.

    All of the suggestions, foreign workers, community clean-up projects, friendly officials at the immigration, cutting fees, and maybe even reducing salaries or getting some of those government officials and politicians to get out there with a pick and shovel and get their hands dirty to understand the problems and what needs to be done. Maybe this can be an opportunity to make everything better, less vulnerable, more functional even start new ways of thinking and doing things more efficiently. Maybe rebuilding can be done in a way that avoids the old problems and negatives that existed before Irma prevent some of the old problems at the same time. Companies will invest, tourists will eagerly return and citizens will have more opportunities.

    There are a lot of smart and innovative people in the BVI nome are native and some are regular visitors but all of the basic requirements, resources, and ability are available. If the people love their islands and want a future for themselves and their kids then it is up to the people to show some pride. You can’t change the past but you create the future. If you don’t the decisions will be made by others and fast food chains will pop up outside franchise resorts and the same pattern that has destroyed so much of the Caribbean making the locals employees of big multinationals flipping hamburgers and losing your culture.Create your future or let others enslave you to their money machine and you can never go back.

  23. ??? says:

    Thanks for stating the obvious. After a catastrophic hurricane that resulted in closures of most of our hotels and almost no cruise ships, of course tourism will show massive declines. The US also imposed a travel restriction on the BVI up until recently.

    • CW says:

      There was never a travel restriction from the US to BVI once the Royal Marines left. People don’t go to BVI because it’s a disaster zone and literally every other tourism destination in the Caribbean is better right now. Part of that is hurricanes. Part of that is BVI not trying to improve, choosing to instead whine and blame. It will never get better as long as BVIlanders act so indignant about accepting the assistance they desperately need.

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