Underscoring the significance of the Norman Island development and the Peter Island resort to the territory, Junior Minister of Tourism Dr Hubert O’Neal said booting the William Thornton (Willy T) floating bar and restaurant for a second time was a necessary move.
The unique establishment was given an eviction notice from Great Harbour, Peter Island roughly five months after it was booted from The Bight off Norman Island. They have to find a new place to operate by the end of this year.
“These are decisions that you have to make if you want to develop a tourism product. Right now, we are recovering and to develop it further we have to make certain hard decisions like this. It’s just the reality,” Dr O’Neal told BVI News in an invited comment this week.
In further explaining why operators of the two privately-owner outer islands have turned the Willy T away, the new Junior Tourism Minister said: “The developers don’t want that type of operation for the level of development that they are doing.”
He then noted that the islands of great benefit to the territory.
“I wouldn’t attach any significance but the level of benefit to the BVI — the employment opportunities and the spin-off benefits to the BVI and tourism — is enormous with those two operations; Norman Island and Peter Island.”
Several other spots in BVI, Salt Island available
O’Neal further pointed out that there are many areas the Willy T can comfortably operate.
“It is not like that (Peter Island) is the only spot in the BVI, there are several other spots,” he reasoned, stating that operators of the Willy T were presented with a number of viable options such as Salt Island.
“They haven’t gotten back to us to say whether they want that spot or not so we are simply waiting on what they have decided.”
He continued: “They have an operation that is appealing to young persons and what they offered is a form of entertainment that the young people gravitate to. So from that aspect, I think it was good. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen anywhere else. It just cannot happen where they were.”
O’Neal said he is open to discussions with the owners of Willy T on paving a way forward.
“I don’t know if they have made the decision to move out of the BVI, [but] it would be unfortunate because I still think they have something to offer,” he said.
The owners of the Willy T told our news centre weeks ago that they are considering all options including whether to leave the BVI for good.
When contacted for an update on their plans, the owners said they had ‘nothing to report’ yet.
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