Tourist Board Chairman addresses New Rotary Club on Impact of Global Economic Crisis on BVI Tourism

CONTACT: Monica Ramgeet
Tuesday April 7th, 2009: Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board Myron Walwyn said Tuesday that the BVI tourism industry will face its most difficult period during this global economic downturn, but this presents an opportunity for the territory to improve its marketability.

He made the comments as he addressed the breakfast meeting of the new Rotary Club Sunrise of Road Town, held at Maria's By The Sea Restaurant this morning.

The main tourism market for the Caribbean and the BVI is the United States, the economy suffering the most from this recession. US tourists account for 75-80% of visitor arrivals in the BVI.

Mr. Walwyn said while there is no scientific way of measuring the full contribution of tourism to Caribbean economies, there is no doubt that any downturn in tourist arrivals will have far reaching effects on the BVI economy. He said not only would hoteliers, restauranteurs, industry employees or taxi drivers be affected, but also white collar workers.

"It will result in lower tax revenues for the government, which can in turn result in retrenchments or hiring freezes, prohibit government from fulfilling its social agenda, and ultimately slow down our local economy," the BVITB Chairman said.

Caribbean hoteliers have reported declines in visitor arrivals of 30-50%. BVI businesses report a drop of 15-20% with some small scale retrenchment.

Mr. Walwyn noted that the BVI is competing with destinations such as Dubai, China, the Mediterranean, Seychelles, Europe, Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, some of which offer a higher quality product, higher level of service, better cuisine and lower prices.

"Perhaps this is an indication that the tourism landscape is changing around us and we have to find ways to accommodate the change," he said. "Crises like these make us better understand the role that tourism plays in our economy and the need to improve our products, services and marketing plan."

Mr. Walwyn outlined upcoming BVI Tourist Board initiatives to include:
 * A vigorous marketing campaign to enhance the territory's position to the international travel market
 * Promoting heritage tourism, with Phase 1 to include the restoration of heritage sites - The Coppermine, Lower Estate Sugar Works, the residence of William Thornton, the Quaker Burial Ground, the Callwood Distillery and the opening of the Faulkner House in Anegada
 * Joint exercise with Customs and Immigration to institute Nothing to Declare/Something to Declare lines at ports of entry
 * The resumption of increased American Eagle flights to and from San Juan as of May 1, and
 * Visitor exit surveys enabling visitors to rate our services.

The BVI Tourist Board chairman said along with these and other initiatives, the BVI would be able to properly position itself to take advantage of the predicted global economic recovery.