The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is back stronger than ever and focused on an ambitious plan to substantially expand its hotel-room offerings in the next five years.
“Hurricane Irma hit us very hard [in Sept. 2017], but we have recuperated to a certain extent. We look at what happened as an opportunity to refresh our tourism industry,” said Sharon Flax-Brutus, BVI tourism director.
Tourism has recovered in terms of yachting, cruiseship and hotel/overnight visitors.
Tourism is a key industry in the BVI and to that end, the BVI has introduced a tourism development plan that includes increasing the number of its hotel-room stock by 5,000 beds within the next five years.
Before Irma, the BVI had about 2,500 hotel rooms, which is currently at around 1,300 rooms, Flax-Brutus said. However, this does not include rooms that are available in the sharing economy, such as those listed on Airbnb, as well as the 4,000 beds that are available “at sea” through the BVI’s major charter boat industry.
The BVI government also has plans to “improve the access to the territory by way of air and sea” and invest more in marketing the territory’s tourism brand, which has been focused on the destination as “nature’s little secrets.”
Flax-Brutus explained that since taxes are low in the BVI, about 8 percent, the incentives are focused on fast tracking permits through a “one stop shop” and providing concessions on import duties, mostly building materials that would be used in construction.
The incentives also include providing work permits for the required workers. “The unemployment rate at the BVI is very low, with many people working in hospitality, so we need to import workers,” she added. “It’s an aggressive goal, but I am confident we can do it.”
The BVI receives about 1 million visitors a year—400,00 are overnight visitors and the remaining 600,000 are either cruiseship passengers or day trippers. In fact, many visitors come from the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Known as a destination rich in experiences, the BVI is an archipelago comprising 60 islands and cays located 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. The main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke are famous worldwide for their beautiful beaches, nearly pristine nature and yachting offerings.