Stepping off the ferry at the Setting Point in Anegada on Saturday morning, visitors were greeted by the sound of a steel drum, handed a goodie bag that contained a reusable spork and hand sanitiser, and steered towards a tent for rum shots spiked with mango and pistachio.
The Anegada Lobster Festival, sidelined last year by the coronavirus pandemic, was back.
“It really feels good,” said Bell Creque, who opened Cow Wreck Beach Bar 31 years ago with her husband.
She was speaking outside her airy kitchen, watching as her children delivered plates stacked with saucy cuts of rib and mounds of plump rice to the guests milling around the restaurant.
Ms. Creque welcomed the influx of visitors after seeing hardly any over the past year.
“The morning was slow but it has picked up. It’s been pretty good,” Ms. Creque said, adding that Sunday usually draws a larger turnout.
Speaking to the Beacon on Monday, Diane Levons, the owner of Big Bamboo Beach Bar and Restaurant, said that the crowd was indeed much heavier on Sunday than on Saturday. “Everybody came out and enjoyed themselves, and we were happy to entertain them at the Big Bamboo,” said Ms. Levons, who also commended her staff for how they handled the event.
While Ms. Creque was mindful of the dangers posed by another coronavirus outbreak, she said that the virus is now a fact of life, and added that she thinks that it should have no impact on the tourism industry if responsibly managed.
“Covid is something we have to live with,” Ms. Creque said. “As long as we have vaccinations and are careful, we should have a good season.”
But the discovery of the omicron variant of Covid-19, which was declared “a variant of concern” on Friday, may throw the travel industry, which was predicting a comeback during the holiday season, into yet another tailspin.
Although scientists caution that not much is known about the highly mutated variant — including its ability to resist existing vaccines — and that there is not yet any cause for panic, countries across the world were quick to reimpose travel restrictions.
The festival also coincided with an increase in cases in the territory, with Premier Andrew Fahie announcing during a Friday press conference that there were 32 known active cases, up from 21 on Monday.
But on the beaches of Anegada, the threat of infection seemed far from most people’s mind, though there was a stepped-up police presence compared to previous years to ensure “Covid protection,” said Mitchel John, the Road Town community police officer, who was on duty at Anegada on Saturday.
The BVI Tourist Board also tried to ensure the safety of visitors.
As part of its “contingency plan,” only vaccinated staff members worked the event, and they were required to get tested each day, according to a BVITB press release last Thursday.
‘Lobster was amazing’
Although Marc and Patty Downes had been visiting the territory for 30 years before Hurricane Irma destroyed their property in Tortola and the government enacted travel restrictions, this was their first time attending the festival on Anegada.
“It’s our little piece of happiness,” Mr. Downes said of the Virgin Islands.
Neither he nor his wife had been planning to make the trip to the sister island, but after the festival came up in conversation a few nights earlier they decided to check it out.
They were glad they did.
“I think it’s great,” he said, adding, “It brings all the people out.”
His wife agreed, adding, “The lobster was amazing.”