BVI News

Fierce competition: BVI tourism in danger of falling behind

Russell Harrigan

Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board, Russell Harrigan has said the British Virgin Islands might be in danger of falling behind in the global market, given the current fragileness of the local tourism sector.

With that said, Harrigan has reiterated the need for the territory to remain at the top of their game as a destination, even while recovering from last year’s disasters.

He said it is critical that the BVI remains innovative and protect its dominating position in the regional and global tourism industry.

“One of the things as a destination that we have to be practical about and to keep at the forefront of our minds is our competitors are going to see this as an opportunity for them to steal our market share,” he said.

“Don’t fool yourself, if they can use the opportunity that we are down to grow their market, they will do it.”

The Tourist Board Chairman added: “[We must] upgrade whatever offerings we have to make sure they are cutting-edge so that we don’t lose our market share and so we protect our brand.”

Marketing more necessary

Harrigan also underscored that marketing the destination is even more paramount now.

“It could be easy to say: why you don’t take the tourism budget and put it in something else because we don’t need any marketing? You can do that, but that comes at a cost.”

Harrigan, who was speaking recently at a public consultation on government’s proposed recovery plan, explained that the BVI would have to reintroduce itself to the world if it falls off the tourism radar for too long.

He was responding to claims that the stakeholders in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands are trying to steer business away from the territory to increase its market share.

According to President of Ultimate Vacation BVI, Sandra Massicote; she recently attended a Yacht Show in Antigua where a representative from St Thomas was giving ‘false information’ about the BVI.

Massicote said she intervened by presenting accurate information about the current state of BVI tourism.

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  1. Well says:

    Russel come back with a new and good product. Let them build a state of the art facility in west end and make the waterfront better with a roundabout that you dont have to squeeze through and teach some of the Immigration officers courtesy and manners. not to mention put restrooms on beaches and have them cleaned. And build a strong police presence and the product will be fine.

    • Albion says:

      Exactly. You don’t need to do any scientific research to find things that annoy tourists who visit the BVI. You just read the reviews on Tripadvisor. Sea ports and airports are high on their list of complaints, as are unnecessary long and slow queues at customs and immigration. And taxi drivers.

      • Concerned says:

        I agree with both about and note that albion said airport, NOT RUNWAY!!! The airport we should all be proud of is a disgraceful mess. People smarten up or the BVI lose bigtime. And then of course it will all be the fault of not haveing a longer runway.

    • HMPH says:

      We need to accept that our tourism product, apart from the natural beauty of the BVI and ourcharter boat fleets, is third rate and not fit for purpose. We seem to specialize in making foreigners feel unwelcome, and continually make it clear that we just see them as cash cows to be milked as much as possible.
      The fact that some people come back again and again does not mean that my previous statements are incorrect. The more important figures are those that only come once and don’t return, and those that don’t come at all.

    • @well says:

      yes, clean beaches!!

    • ReX FeRaL says:

      Thought the uniquely qualified woman had that aspect of immigration under control. Hmm

    • Sam the man says:

      Friends of mine that have visited have said exactly that about immigration officers – v rude and disrespectful…also its extremely annoying to pay a departure tax on top of expensive airfares – needless to say our friends won’t be returning….

  2. Tricks says:

    Marketing , you really looking more money dread, fix the roads , the ports , build a 4 star hotel , invest tourism not your pocket

  3. Read says:

    The tourism product of the BVI has been in danger since the opening up of Cuba. We refused to pay attention and plan for that eventuality. We are too arrogant and paranoid. No one is trying to steal anything from us, people are just making their destinations the best they can possibly be. No need to engage in us versus them rhetoric – she up our game. Stop recycling cronies, old retirees and get some new fresh ideas. Enter the 21st century with a strong online presence, pay for FB pages, get a fierce BVI twitter and Instagram presence and stop talking nonsense. Train our people in the latest strategies and get on with it.

    • Also says:

      Also consider that several islands down the chain were not affected by the storm and are drawing people who might have come here. The common courtesies they may experience there might make them wonder why ever came here. Others have posted about rude C&I people being the norm here. This has been going on for years so much so that you have to wonder whether there is some perverse pleasure in being so awful. Why do we resist self-improvement so? Takes far less effort to smile than to frown.

  4. Yup! Yup! says:

    As long as we preserve security and safety for our citizens and visitors during this time of recovery our tourism will be easy to reclaim. Zero tolerance on crime is the key. Keep the reputation of a crime free BVI simple.

    • Also says:

      Even if the facts are not consistent with the reputation? Anybody who reads the BVI online media can see that the BVI is not crime free?

  5. Just. Do I says:

    What the BVI needs is substantial Investment in land based accommodations.

    We need both foreign direct investment and local investment in the Tourism plant.

    Economic Growth comes through private sector investment.

    Government is there to provide
    Infrastructure and enabling environment to facilitate investment.

    We don’t need another Tourism Sector Study costing $800,000.
    to tell us what we already know.
    We just need to get on with it and IMPLEMENT.

    Whatever we do must be to an exceptionally high standard.

    We don’t have the luxury of square miles to provide multiple alternatives.

    We need to have additional “wow”
    factors in our tourism plant that are functional.

    1. Airport Redevelopment.
    2. West End Terminal Redevelopment.
    3. Mega Yacht Facility in Road Town.
    4. Trellis Bay Development and
    Beef Island Cruise Ship

    5. Effective Hurricane Resilience for Yacht Charter Fleets upon which much of our
    Tourism product depends.

    Now that advice didn’t cost
    You a dime….just do it…and
    Save that $800,000

    • Lb says:

      I like everything you said, except a Strategic Tourism Plan is absolutely necessary! When we fail to plan then we plan to fail!

  6. Longshanks says:

    Oh boy. Innovative and dominating? Words have actual meanings.

    A couple of suggestions:

    (i) clean up (everywhere but in particular Road Town). Yes, we went through a devastating storm, but the wreckage cannot become the aftermath. While we are at it, let’s get some town planning and make Road Town a better place. Just a few eyesores to deal with: move the ferry from waterfront drive, bulldoze Palm Grove shopping centre and work with Bobby’s to provide a better system than having the hole in their wall with refuse outside on the street.

    (ii) work on improving charm in terms of dealing with tourists. Not “BVI” style charm where you get to it eventually and realise people are warm underneath, but US style charm where people may be complete knobs but they seem friendly and smiley from the get go.

    (iii) there need to be some nice hotels. Allow foreign investment here and make life easier for them to come. BTW they cannot all be on VG or other islands – a couple need to be on Tortola.

    (iv) transport – it needs to be easier to get here and off island. If you want to be innovative this is going to need arrangements with USVI and the ferry service. My two cents is not to bother with substantive immigration checks for people coming from the US. Just check their passport matches and give them a stamp for a period of up to 30 days. Let the law deal with them if they fail to leave at that point.

    (v) while we are on point (iv) get rid of the useless information in the customs and immigration forms. No one reads it. No one keeps a record of it which is in retrievable form.

    (vi) stop nickel and diming tourists. It’s expensive to get here and tourists (other than cruise ship passengers) spend a great deal of money in the economy. Charging the various additional taxes and fees (eg the new environmental levy which presumably goes into the same overall pot that gets wasted on walls) really irks tourists, for minimal gain.

    Your humble servant.

  7. Prophet says:

    I don’t think it’s a war or a fight, we just need to improve our product and our approach. We need entertainment for tourists & locals and that will add more value to us as a destination. Also we need facilities to host these tourists and keep them over night. It can’t just be sun, sand & sea. Infrastructure needs improvement and our cultural areas need to be more valued and displayed. Our national dish needs to be Everywhere.

  8. Janice says:

    Restore cane garden bay.

  9. Brother J says:

    Bvi tourism is not in danager, the problem is, we allow the uk and the us to market our product. What the bvi need is to concentrate heavily on marketing with honesty. Let us show the world where we were, where we are at and where we would be in the next year or so. I am only a belonger, but the culture, the beauty, the service and the food are not found any where else in the world. Be careful what you say Russel!

    • Anonymous says:

      There are bvi residents living abroad in both the UK AND US marketing the products for us. So it’s not like it’s all foreign people doing it.

  10. Shutdown says:

    But you going and giving TBs global contacts and contracts to your overpaid down island consultant? That’s how their walking away with our business!!. Your letting our tax money go to waste with the Miami Open event again that brought us no business last year!
    You’re still marketing in Brazil and Italy?? Where and when did any visitors from those markets come to BVI? Paying so many agencies huge fees!!
    Your US sales team are operating out of NY and flying all over the states?? How does someone have the southern market yet work out of the Northeast??
    Your paying your FCs rent and have her up and down along with her entire family too for every marketing event!
    You don’t need more money you need to be shut down !

  11. Retired says:

    Yes the BVI tourism product is indeed in danger of falling behind other winter tourist destinations. Just how far behind is the product now, Jan. 2018?

    1)Charter vessels(bareboat & crewed)guests- Probably way behind the Grenadines/southern & central Caribbean/Bahamas this year. Hopefully better next year when more yachts are here. The BV islands look better from a mile or so out at sea than close up from a seat in a taxi.

    2)Cruise ship guests – Same as above but they are only here for day. Ferry tours(VG Baths) are preferable to taxi tours(Long Bay BI) this year.

    3)Hotel/villa guests – Probably off the deep end of the danger scale now due to the ruined roads, no electricity, minimum restaurants, the very visible offensive storm debris/wreckage on land, beaches, shorelines,etc. and all the hotel/resort/villa closures on all the BV islands coming up to 5 months after the storm. It appears that this tourist product’s recovery will last well into the next decade.

    It appears that the BVITB should market the stronger products(1&2) this year and next.

  12. Hmmm says:

    1. Take back our name. We are the Virgin Islands, not the British Virgin Islands. Those islands next door call themselves the Virgin Islands though they are called the Virgin Islands of the United States. They have stolen our name and it’s time we take it back.

    2. If other Caribbean countries are intentionally publishing false information about the VI, that is called libel. Sue them. It is harming our growth and GDP and they need to be taught a lesson.

    3. Stop other Caribbean countries from using us as a promotional tool. There are charter companies in St. Martin, the USVI, PR and Anguilla that advertise day trips to the VI and how much of their profits do we see from them? Zero, I bet. Right next door the USVI tells their American tourists that they can stay there cheap with no travel document hassle and come next door to the Baths on a day trip and not have to go through customs. They make it seem like the whole VI is open to their tourists when we can’t even go to St.John without our passport.

    Earlier last year C&I tried to enforce a law to close these loop holes and people made noise. Our culture of lawlessness and lack of conviction is bleeding us dry from our heart and soul so naturally we get taken advantage of. Naturally we fall behind because we have weak and greedy leaders willing to turn the population into simpering footstools as long as they can live on their mansions on the hill and look down at the peasents.

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