Tourism problems, tourism solutions
At a tourism stakeholder meeting hosted by the BVI Tourist Board on Tuesday morning, one attendee raised his hand and made an interesting point: Some of the main issues raised by people at the meeting — including the occasionally unwelcoming attitude of some customs and immigration officers, as well as the abundance of trash throughout the territory — suggest a fundamental disconnect between the Virgin Islands population and one of its main economic pillars. It should seem automatic that a government employee in a territory largely reliant on tourism would be friendly to visitors, yet some often are not, he argued. Similarly, it should seem obvious that a territory that prides itself on being “Nature’s Little Secrets” should have an efficient method to reduce and recycle unnecessary waste, yet it obviously does not. The Beaconite appreciated that the attendee also suggested a solution instead of just articulating a problem: that government should support programmes that get more young people in the Virgin Islands to appreciate the territory the way a tourist does. For example, if every VI youth learned to swim and spent at least one afternoon on a sailboat, he argued, the population at large might grow to have a greater appreciation for conserving the maritime environment and reducing waste. Of course, government and the private sector alike have hosted several programmes designed to promote exactly this sort of thinking. But the Beaconite believes that more such initiatives would go a long way toward strengthening the tourism sector at this critical time.
The more a Beaconite learns, the more she finds herself fascinated by the complicated relationship between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Throughout her reporting on Hurricane Irma, she has heard many expressions of profound gratitude toward the group of boaters known as the “Puerto Rican Navy” for being quick to arrive with pivotal supplies and evacuation boats, helping the injured and displaced in their times of need. But she also has heard that in the past Puerto Rican tourists haven’t always been the most popular guests in VI waters, for various fairly shallow reasons, like the fact that they tend to favour salsa music turned up loudly. She was also lucky enough, during the welcome party for Christmas in July 2018 at Nanny Cay on Saturday, to meet many Puerto Ricans who admitted that they might be boisterous at times while vacationing here, but who said they share the same love for the VI that residents here have for their own islands. In short, the territories are that couple in a romantic comedy who spend the entire film bickering and then, in the last 10 minutes, realise they were in love with each other all along.
Whenever the Beacon needs an expert in a certain field to weigh in on a story — whether it’s about climate change, criminal justice or any other subject matter — there are many people in the territory to call. But for some niche issues — like, say, Facebook’s algorithm and how it impacts news articles — it’s helpful to be able to talk to authorities outside of the territory. Sometimes that is easier said than done, a Beaconite learned this week. It turns out that cold-e-mailing someone in a different country asking for a minute of their time doesn’t always work. Luckily, the reporter found a very helpful professor at Columbia Journalism School to answer her many broad questions. Though only one of eight people answered her e-mail, it only took that one to move the story forward.