By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
Following the government’s recently-announced border reopening protocols, at least one marine taxi company which transports tourists from the neighbouring US Virgin Islands (USVI) to the territory is already reporting nearly 500 booking cancellations that amount to a loss of more than $100,000.
This company is the USVI-based Dolphin Water Taxi, which employs about 15 locals through partnerships with privately-owned commercial BVI boats.
According to its manager, Greg Aberle, bookings had started to multiply daily after government announced that the BVI would reopen for toursim on December 1.
He said: “We would normally have roughly 2,000 for the last quarter of the year with 1,500 of that being in the month of December. This year was different because nobody knew when the BVI was going to open. We had only bookings for maybe 350 for the month of December that had come in February, March, April, and that time frame.”
“When the BVI put out that promotional video that it opens on December 1st, reservations started flowing in at a click of approximately 30 to 40 per day as people made their airline bookings and hotel or charter boat bookings. The calendar through the first week of January was beginning to fill in just nearly like a normal year until yesterday,” he further explained in an interview with BVI News.
100% in cancellations expected
Aberle said business took an abrupt turn following Monday’s announcement of the BVI’s protocols, which saw about 50 percent of the pre-booked customers cancelling their trip.
“Of what was a sum total of approximately 750 up to maybe 900 people between December 10th and January 10th, thus far about half have cancelled. I suspect the remaining half will cancel as well. It is nearly a 100 percent cancellation rate because none of the bookings were more than seven days long so they could not even come anywhere near handling an eight-day quarantine,” the water taxi operator stated.
“Not even any hinting about returning for January, February, March or April. Only one group of 10 pushed it back to June. The rest are saying they will go elsewhere or maybe stay in just on the US Virgin Islands side and get hotel bookings there.”
$100,000 plus in revenue losses
The manager further said the cancellations will result in his business losing more than $100,000, and the BVI’s economy missing out on more than $70,000.
He said: “As it pertains to money. It is a total loss of revenue for that four weeks — which is traditionally our busiest time of the year — of about $110,000 to $130,000. Eighty percent of this is returned back to the BVI and our operations there. That’s without factoring in the Jost Van Dyke New Year’s Eve party which brings in 200 people times $150 per person which equals $30,000.”
He further said: “It has been my experience that the average tourist in the BVI spends approximately $100 per day. So if you factor in Dolphin Water Taxi’s scheduled guests at 750 total, that’s a revenue loss of $75,000 spread throughout various restaurants and businesses for those few weeks over the holidays.”
Cancellation due to quarantine period and costs for all the COVID tests
Aberle also shared the explanation given by persons who cancelled their trip, saying it was largely because of the BVI government’s announced protocols.
“The reason people are cancelling is because the quarantine is eight days long and their trips are only seven days. It just doesn’t work for them. The few people that plan on spending two weeks are certainly not going to spend and incur the cost of three coronavirus tests plus seven nights in a hotel of which they don’t even know where they have to stay,” he stated.
He added: “It’s definitely not an opening when 98 percent of your tourists only come for seven days and you’re making them have an eight-day quarantine at their own expense. That means you are still closed to all of those potential tourists.
Aberle said he believes if the current protocols exist through to January 1, 2021, his company will lose out on a total of about 4,000 total passengers for the year 2020.
Other businesses in the territory also reporting cancellation
Meanwhile, a number of local business owners also took to social media to share similar sentiments.
In some cases, they claimed they were now forced to refund pre-booked customers thousands of dollars due to cancellations which were said to be linked to the BVI’s reopening protocols.
Premier Andrew Fahie has since said government is not fully responsible for these cancellations.
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