Overnight tourist arrivals in the first two months of 2022 soared in comparison to the same period in 2021, with the 26,225 visitors representing the Virgin Islands’ slow climb to regain numbers it saw prior to the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown.
However, the territory has still only regained a small percentage of pre-pandemic numbers for the same period in 2020.
The latest statistics reported by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation showed that January and February arrivals were up 1,673.2 percent over January and February 2021, shortly after the territory reopened to tourism.
January 2022 saw a total of 12,326 overnight visitors, representing a 1,283.4 percent increase over January 2021. February saw even more, with 13,899 arrivals, an increase of 2,263.8 percent over February 2021.
By contrast, January 2021 saw just 891 arrivals, and February 2021 saw even fewer, at 588.
However, the numbers also showed the VI has a lot of ground to recover to reach levels seen in pre-pandemic January and February 2020, when the territory saw 65,320 visitors for both months.
At a press conference in February, then-premier Andrew Fahie said that in 2021, the Virgin Islands received about 60,000 visitors altogether. This included almost 33,000 travellers through the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, more than 20,000 through the Road Town ferry terminal within 10 months, and more than 6,500 through the West End ferry dock within seven months.
“We are already seeing that the trend is upward for 2022,” Mr. Fahie said at the time, with the January and February numbers bearing that out.
The BVI Tourist Board has noted that overnight tourist arrivals fell by 37 percent last year from 2020 levels.
Meanwhile, cruise ship tourism also continued on a path of slow recovery after taking a major hit during the early days of the pandemic.
Cruise passenger arrivals totalled 68,604 for the months of January and February 2022, representing a healthy start to the year but still falling far short of the pre-pandemic 178,574 seen in January and February 2020, according to the CTO.
In the same two months in 2021, cruise tourism had not yet restarted.
Reporting on the VI delegation’s visit to the Seatrade conference visit in Miami last month, Deputy Premier Kye Rymer announced last week that a push to cater to smaller, luxury cruises is expected to result in 417 cruise calls in the upcoming season, with 79 multiple-call days, including visits to the sister islands.
Though the cruise industry continues to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, it expects a return to 96 percent capacity by July, officials said.
At least two new cruise ship brands, Mr. Rymer added, have confirmed calls to the VI for the 2022-2023 season: Virgin Cruises and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
The VI delegation gave “special focus” to these smaller luxury cruise lines, which often stay for multiple days and spend time in the sister islands, aligning well with the rest of the VI’s high-end market, according to the deputy premier.
The VI delegation met with at least 12 cruise companies and several regional port partners, he added.