Tourists walk to their cruise ship at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park. The total number of cruise visitors to the Virgin Islands has continued to increase, setting a record this year so far. (File Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

Cruise ship passenger arrivals are expected to hit a new record this year and then continue climbing, but no upper limit has been set, according to Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer.

“That’s a conversation we would be having with the stakeholders, and we want to make sure that we sustain the territory as well,” Mr. Rymer said last Thursday in a press conference. “So it’s something that we’ll be discussing.”

Officials have repeatedly touted the record 393,605 passengers seen in the first quarter of this year, which were up 32 percent from the same period in 2023.

“The substantial increase in arrivals reflect the positive impact of our strategic engagement and partnerships within the cruise industry — partnership not only for the government but for the private sector as well, such as locally owned business of cruise agents, tour operators, taxi drivers and even suppliers,” Mr. Rymer said.

Asked for specifics about future numbers, he deferred to BVI Ports Authority Marketing Director Natasha Chalwell, who also attended the press conference.

Ms. Chalwell said that 512 calls are booked for 2024, which translates to approximately 795,000 passengers — up from 720,392 in 2023.

She added that the number of calls can fluctuate, so the total sum is an estimate.

For next year, booking numbers are even higher than this year, and the BVI Ports Authority is continuing to book for that year and 2026, according to Ms. Chalwell.

Cruise conference

Also during the press conference, Mr. Rymer gave an update on his recent trip leading a VI delegation to the Seatrade Cruise Global 2024 conference in Miami on April 11-18.

“As we engage with top executives and influencers in the global cruise industry, Seatrade serves as a premier forum for networking, strengthening relationships, and staying informed on industry trends and future directions,” he said.

He added that an updated study due later this year will help “identify the BVI’s cruise passenger spending patterns.”

The study will be carried out by the New Jersey-based consulting firm Business Research and Economic Advisors on behalf of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.

Number of VI delegates?

Asked the total number of government delegates who attended the conference from the territory, Mr. Rymer responded, “That’s a question I’d have to get back to you on in terms of the number. I know we had representatives from the port, pier park, tourist board, the ministry itself, but the total number I can’t say.”

He had not provided the number as of press time yesterday afternoon.