Honorable Natalio D. Wheatley, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
at the sixth sitting of the fourth session of the fourth house of assembly
21st July 2022
Thank you Madam President.
I wish to make a brief statement to this honorable Chamber on the work of the BVI Tourist Board (BVITB).
Madam President, the term of office of the BVITB Board of Directors will expire on 31st July 2022. As a responsible administration, the National Unity Government has been proactive in ensuring that stable and quality leadership of this most important statutory body is maintained.
The 8the In July 2022, advertisements were published inviting those interested in serving on the BVITB Board of Directors to apply. The deadline for submitting applications was 16e July 2022, and we are reviewing applications to make selections.
The outgoing Board of Directors has been a hard worker and on behalf of the government and people of the Virgin Islands, I would like to thank the members for their service. I would also like to thank and congratulate the Chair, Ms. Kenisha Sprauve, for her commendable leadership on the Board.
BVITB is always looking for ways to improve the visitor experience and add value to their visit. And although the pandemic has prevented the outgoing board from following through on some of its ideas, the board has met the unforeseen challenges of the pandemic and has been able to complete a few projects and start others that the board hopes will be carried out. Oh good.
To give some highlights of the work of the current and outgoing Council, Madam President:
- The Board has ensured that the BVITB has a strategic plan of work to help it move the organization forward on a clear path.
- The council ensured that the BVITB would be relocated to a new space that would provide employees with a comfortable environment that made them feel at home.
- One of the board’s first initiatives was to conduct an internal human resources audit for the organization. The Board ensured that HR policies were updated to ensure fair and equitable conditions for all staff.
- During the management of the pandemic, BVITB partnered with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College to design the Gold Seal program, which prepared the industry to welcome customers to our shores and also elevate service excellence in the Virgin Islands.
- Under the direction of the Board of Directors, we have been able to restore tourism during a pandemic to enable our industry partners to reach new levels of occupancy and provide opportunities for locals to create jobs in the tourism industry, such as charter companies, water taxis and concierge services to assist clients with vacation planning.
- The BVITB has ensured that guests are welcomed year round to the Road Town Ferry Terminal with steel music to start the guest experience on a high note. LIVE entertainment was also offered at all entry points during the busiest times of the year.
- The BVITB has restored the “smallest post office in the Caribbean” in Virgin Gorda.
- He renovated two observation sites on Virgin Gorda and created a third. Equipped with a mounted telescope, these sites allow visitors to experience our beautiful hillside vistas on specially designed platforms, while their tour guides tell them parts of the history of the Virgin Islands.
- More recently, BVITB has completed not one, but four island panels, in each of our main islands. These signs have already attracted many visitors for photo ops and created additional value on island tours which is great for our taxi drivers and tour guides. The panels were painted by local artists depicting historical and cultural scenes that resonate with the unique character of each island.
- BVI flags and BVILOVE flags are erected on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Beef Island to add excitement to our visitors entering through Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
- The BVITB is currently in the planning phase with regards to the construction of the Trellis Bay waiting area and the Carrot Bay Heritage Village to showcase the BVI culture, to name a few.
- The BVITB is in the process of providing current Olympians with a stipend to help them and also for them to help the BVI by having them promote the destination through sports tourism.
Madam President, I am sure everyone would agree that these are commendable achievements considering the challenges posed to the local and international tourism and travel industries by the global COVID-19 pandemic which began in 2020.
Madam Speaker, the numbers show that BVI Tourism continues to have a healthy resurgence.
The Virgin Islands welcomed more than 202,000 visitors in the first four months of 2022. These included 140,000 cruise passengers, 60,268 overnight passengers and 1,949 day-trippers.
I am informed that the tourist off-season is changing.
Tourism Industry Partners (TIP) are reporting positive guest numbers through September – where normally the season traditionally slowed in May or June.
BVITB continues to promote BVI Staycation to further entice local residents and people from USVI and Puerto Rico to participate and take advantage of special offers that will be promoted. This is intended to act as a buffer when the number of guests is not at its maximum.
Events such as the locally hosted inaugural One BVI Poker Run, the upcoming Christmas in July featuring our beloved “Spanish Navy”, BVI Summer Sizzle and our Emancipation Celebrations help extend our traditional tourist season to benefit our TIPS.
Over the past two months, with the help of BVITB, the Virgin Islands has hosted several social media influencers, each with over 500,000 targeted followers, as well as a number of travel and media journalists. These people tell the story of our amazing destination in an authentic way to their followers and readers, inspiring their wanderlust.
BVITB’s marketing team will be attending Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas in August and the CHTA Marketplace in Puerto Rico in October, to ensure that Destination BVI remains top of mind for luxury travel agents and tour operators looking specialize in promoting destinations like the BVI.
The BVITB is planning a major brand engagement for 2023 which will see the BVI brand associated with internationally recognized luxury brands and featured in our international feeder markets.
The BVITB has officially launched its North American Sail & Stay summer campaign. The Council has partnered with TravelDesk, a data-driven media solutions company specializing in multi-channel targeting strategies for this year’s campaign. The campaign will provide accurate data targeting US leisure travelers with a beautiful and inspiring advertising campaign. These advertisements will encourage bookings of packages/offers available for purchase directly from our participating partners’ websites.
To maximize our investment and stimulate interest in partner offers, interested participating partners will receive a pixel for their landing page to retarget visitors to their website. There are 11 participating partners in the different tourism sectors. A rising tide floats all boats, so even non-participating TIPs will benefit from the exposure of the Travel Desk.
Madam Speaker, I am advised that the incentive market is doing extremely well with many groups scheduled for the coming summer and into 2024. We have already had several full buyouts for the year in many of our major hotels with another full takeover release third week of August. The BVI is a prime incentive destination with our multi-island destination and premium activities.
The romance market is also on the rise, as couples are now returning to in-person ceremonies instead of Zoom weddings. We have already seen many full buyouts for the year with million dollar weddings at the main island resorts. The honeymoon and renewal market is also on the rise as the pandemic has slowed and couples eagerly await their destination honeymoons.
These niche markets are fruitful for BVIs and BVITB will continue its marketing efforts in the Incentive and Romance niche markets to increase returns.
The BVITB team continues to liaise with various government agencies, NGOs and industry partners to ensure that when guests arrive, their vacation is seamless.
Destination management is a key objective for the team as they traverse the destination by documenting anything that might hinder the customer experience; and make representations to the various government agencies to remedy the problems identified.
“R to the 3rd Power” remains the theme for the focus on customer service training in 2022. As the Standards and Training team encourages companies and employees to
- Review – how the company is perceived by customers,
- Renew – areas where the company can improve its product and service offerings, and
- Re-engage – customers to encourage greater support.
To date, over 400 people from government offices, schools, small family businesses, hotels, restaurants, taxi professionals, churches and youth groups have all benefited immensely from the training sessions. . All participants obtain a ‘Service Excellence Certificate’ from BVITB.
As a member of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Partner Program, the destination received a complimentary Strategic Service Assessment. Stakeholders in the Zoom session included cruise agents, government agencies and the transportation industry. The assessment identified gaps and missed opportunities in product and service offerings. This will help guide the BVITB as it prepares for its 2023 customer service targets.
The BVI Tourist Board encourages businesses to make the most of these free sessions. Individuals are encouraged to contact the BVITB Standards and Training team to register.
The BVITB “Guest Welcome Booth” at Terrence B. International Airport is closed for repairs, but I am pleased to inform you that the BVITB will have a new welcome area at the airport in time for the start of high season.
The renovation of the S. Vanessa Faulkner Botanical Garden in Anegada is underway and will also be completed by the start of the high season, and the renovation of all viewing sites in Virgin Gorda and Anegada is also underway.
Madam President, this is all the result of hard and dedicated work by the outgoing Board of Directors, management and staff of BVITB. I thank them once again for their efforts, and thanks to their work, we can say that there is a lot to look forward to for our tourism industry and for the benefit of our tourism stakeholders and the economy in the weeks and months. to come and beyond.
I thank you.