Premier and Minister of Tourism Andrew Fahie has said the British Virgin Islands is set to benefit from more than 60,000 cruise passengers for the 2019/2020 tourist season.
The Premier said this ‘unexpected boost’ is as a result of two major cruise lines – Norwegian and Royal Caribbean – confirming that they will increase their calls to the territory.
He said: “The cruise industry is an integral aspect of the way forward for growth and prosperity for the territory. As such, our government remains focused on building and maintaining strong relationships with our valued cruise partners and ensuring that the citizens of the territory continue to benefit from the consequent economic activity. In this regard, I mandated Tortola Pier Park Ltd and the BVI Port Authority to work expeditiously to ensure that this goal is realized.”
“We are already seeing great initial results from our collective and tireless efforts. I am happy to say that our taxi drivers, small business owners, vendors, tour operators and our various agencies can now look forward to increased benefits and opportunities from the arrival of an additional 64,022 passengers in the upcoming 2019/2020 season,” the Premier added.
The Premier said Norwegian Cruises will make 12 calls, bringing 50,000 passengers while Royal Caribbean Cruises promised to increase their current bookings from 32 calls to 39 calls which will bring in an additional 14,022 passengers to the territory’s shores.
He further said Royal Caribbean’s calls include eight this summer and six next summer.
Notably, in the 2016/2017 season, Royal Caribbean made only eight calls to the territory and only two calls in the 2017/2018 season.
The Premier said the territory is working with the stakeholders in the cruise industry to further develop the BVI’s offerings and see an even larger increase in the upcoming seasons.
Roughly half-a-million passengers are expected in the territory by the end of this season.
Territory was expected to lose millions
Just last month, Premier Fahie announced that the territory was projected to lose millions in revenue after Norwegian Cruise Line made a ‘commercial decision’ to adjust their itineraries and reduce ship calls to the territory.
At the time, he said the territory would have seen a passenger shortfall of 180,000 for the 2019/2020 season as a result.
“This translates to an estimated loss in revenue of over $14 million projected using a passenger spend of $78.11 based on studies conducted by Business Research Economic Advisors,” Fahie said at the time.
He also mentioned that this was communicated to the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) since November 2016 where the cruise line informed that this shortfall was expected to continue for future seasons.
However, the Tourism Minister indicated that, after receiving the letter, the BVIPA sent a response accepting the remedies that had been suggested by the cruise line. One such solution was for the cruise liners to pay a ‘shortfall fee’ based on the Territory’s passenger tax.
Fahie also mentioned that during talks with the cruise lines, at least one said it preferred to travel to Antartica than service the BVI because of their treatment under the previous NDP administration.
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