After Irma, the BVI Tourist Board presented the government with a 32-point list of ideas to consider, including a renewal of the charter yacht strategy, BVITB Chairman Russell Harrigan said last week during a stakeholder meeting for the business community on the Hurricane Irma recovery plan.
“We need to look at where are our gaps in our product and fill those gaps,” said Mr. Harrigan, who is also the publisher of this newspaper. “How do we get more BVIslanders in the sector? What new incentives do we need to be putting on the books?”
The BVITB, he said, is asking for some $800,000 to do a sector plan for tourism, similar to one put in place in the mid 1990s.
“We reached one million tourists in 2016, and we were looking forward to passing that in 2017 until Irma came,” he said. “We also want to protect our brand. The brand of the BVI is what causes visitors to come here, and we don’t want to lose those assets.”
One meeting attendee, Sandra Massicot of Ultimate Vacations BVI, noted that at the recent Antigua yacht show, a representative from the United States Virgin Islands was spreading misinformation about this territory.
Mr. Harrigan wasn’t surprised.
“Our competitors are going to look at this as an opportunity to steal our market share,” he said. “It could be easy to say, ‘Why don’t you just take the Tourist Board’s budget and put it somewhere else?’ You can do that, but it comes at a cost.”
Also at the meeting, Mr. Harrigan said the premier met recently with representatives from larger tourism properties that sustained damaged.
“All of them were offline in November,” he said. “I think he got a very clear sense that they will rebuild. All of them committed to rebuilding [but] want to hear specific timelines.”
Mr. Harrigan added that tourism officials hope to get all large properties on the same timeline.
“It would send a strong signal to the world that we are not offline forever,” he said.