Premier and Minister of Tourism Dr D Orlando Smith has given a clearer indication of how badly last year’s disasters affected the local tourism industry, noting that the industry has been set back by five years in some sectors.
Coming out of 2016, the BVI broke records having welcomed more than one million visitors to its shores. But, when fast-forwarded to the disaster-riddled 2017, the territory recorded 387,922 fewer visitors than it did in 2016.
That means visitor arrivals dropped by a frightening 33 percent.
While delivering the 2018 Budget Address on Monday, the Premier released figures detailing how each sector in the tourism industry was affected.
“Cruise visitors decreased by 289,382 passengers, representing a 41 percent decline from 2016. Day trip visitors declined by 5,713 or 33 percent, and overnight visitors declined by 73,134 or 18 percent, taking us back to 2013 levels,” Dr Smith said.
He continued: “Our charter and bareboat industry pre-storm had 3,800 berths at sea and as of March 1 stood at 1,584.”
The Tourism Minister said land accommodations before the hurricanes were estimated at 2,700 rooms, but that number fell to a miserable 336 at the start of March 2018.
Tourism resting on charter yacht sector
However, Dr Smith said the charter sector is ‘rebounding in a major way’ and is keeping local tourism alive while the rest of the industry rebuilds.
He said land tourism will see ‘major resurgence‘ by September when local villas and small properties are repaired and reopened.
“Our larger properties will understandably take a longer time to be up and fully operational … hopefully in time for the 2019 season,” the Premier said.
“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 marketplace. We have to take advantage of the marketing opportunities and ramp up our spending [so we can] tell the world exactly what is taking place with our product and when they can expect to enjoy our beautiful islands to the fullest.”
He continued: “It is important to recognise that in 2018, other players in the industry will not sit idly by and wait for the British Virgin Islands to redevelop and regain its market share. So we must act swiftly and aggressively.”
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