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Skelton wants ports improved; fears visitor decline

Minister of Health and Social Development Ronnie Skelton

Relatively poor service at the territory’s seaports is what may start causing fewer people to visit the British Virgin Islands – not the increases in cruise permit fees.

Minister of Health and Social Development Ronnie Skelton made that declaration in the House of Assembly yesterday while he contributed to a debate on the Cruise Permit (Amendment) Act.

The proposed amendments are for the fees to be increased up to $6 per person per day for boats based in the BVI, and up to $16 for boats based outside.

“These fees for visitors is not something that a visitor will not come to the BVI because of this. Why visitors will not come to the BVI is because if we don’t improve the level of service that we give to visitors – the clearance at the dock, the Customs, Immigration, [and] the facilities,” he said.

Skelton further told the House that he recently entered the territory through one of the seaports, and he was not pleased with the service offered to more than 200 people who had arrived on three vessels.

He said the Customs and Immigration officers complained to him that they need – among other things – better facilities.

“We had difficulties [processing the passengers]. The Immigration complaining; Customs complaining to me. They need facilities; somebody needs to look at this and find some way of dealing with visitors coming to our country because that is a distraction – not the $6 or the $16 [cruise permit fees]… Processing people through the ports, we can do better, and we need to do better,” Skelton further told his colleagues in the legislature.

It is not the first time that he is raising concern about the issue. In March this year, the minister proposed that immigration officers be placed on boats as a temporary measure until the ports are improved.

“We need our ports to be more visitor friendly,” he emphasized in March.

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