Director of Tourism Clive McCoy gives details for the upcoming Virgin Islands Music Festival, which will be held May 24-26. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

Government has allocated $670,000 for the Virgin Islands Music Festival in May but hopes to earn it all back through ticket sales, sponsorships and other revenue streams, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said at a press conference on Friday.

The three-day event, scheduled for May 24-26, will take place behind the Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex. Headliners include Nigerian American actor and singer Rotimi; Trinidad and Tobago soca artist Voice; Jamaican dancehall and reggae performer Alkaline; United States R&B singer Freddie Jackson; and Virgin Islands-based soca band VIBE, according to the BVI Tourist Board, which is organising the event.

“The BVI has a great product that has served us — and continues to serve us — faithfully and well,” said Junior Minister for Culture and Tourism Luce Hodge-Smith. “But by further developing our product and creating new attractions, we can open up avenues for increasing our visitor arrivals and encourage visitors to spend more money in our territory, which increases the economic opportunities for our local entrepreneurs and businesses — especially those that are engaged directly and indirectly in tourism-related businesses.”

The premier highlighted the overall economic impact he said the event will have on the VI.

“There is a question of whether these music festivals are a waste of money. Now [it’s] actually quite the opposite,” he said. “These music festivals generate money not just for the Tourist Board, not just for the government, but for the entire economy. It generates income for clothing stores, for beauty salons, for barber shops, all types of food and beverage, taxis, rental cars. It generates a great deal of resources.”

To better understand the event’s overall economic impact, the Central Statistics Office will conduct a study during the event, according to the premier.

“By the conclusion of this festival, we will have some idea of the economic impact not just to the BVI Tourist Board, not just to the government of the Virgin Islands, but the wider economy,” Dr. Wheatley said.

Other festivals

Officials also provided spending updates on other coming festivals. This weekend’s Virgin Gorda Easter Festival has a budget of $160,000 allocated from the government, he said.

The August Emancipation Festival, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year, has $1.2 million allocated, according to Dirk Walters, the events manager at the BVITB and the chairman of the Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee.

The BVITB is organising these two festivals after taking over the responsibilities of the VIFFC. This transfer was decided by Cabinet in December 2023. As part of the decision, Cabinet called for amendments to the Tourist Board Ordinance and the VI Festivals and Fairs Committee Act.

These amendments must go through the House of Assembly, but that process has yet to occur — a fact that draw criticism from the opposition last week.

“The premier got up in the House and misled the public, saying that tourism, or Tourist Board, has responsibility over culture and festivals. There’s nowhere in [the Tourist Board Ordinance] that speaks to having that authority,” opposition member Marlon Penn said at a March 19 press conference. “The Tourist Board could barely execute its current authority that it has right now. And you’re putting additional authorities on top of the Tourist Board to do things that are illegal.”

Asked Friday about the legality of the transfer, the premier replied that it was a “non-issue.”

“Cabinet has made a decision. We’re making that transition. The law is being prepared to be amended, and that will be it,” he said, adding, “No one has dissolved the Festivals and Fairs Committee. Some membership has expired and has not been renewed, and you have some membership that currently still exists, and they’re helping to organise the event along with the Tourist Board.”