This is the question posed by Hon. Marlon Penn, Leader of the Opposition in an address to the Territory days before the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) administration celebrates their mid-term in office.
“Where is the plan? The work which commenced on a National Tourism plan by the previous Government should have been completed by now and a national plan remains even more important in a post-COVID-19 world,” Hon. Penn stated.
Junior Minister of Tourism, Hon. Sharie de Castro has been given the mandate to produce a national tourism plan by the end of 2021. Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie made the announcement in his new year’s address to the Territory; however, this is not sitting well with Hon. Penn.
“Why has the responsibility for a national plan for Tourism, our major industry been given to a non-Cabinet member? Where is the plan that allows us to finally and safely re-open our borders? Where is the plan to continually engage all tourism stakeholders on matters that directly affect them and for which they have the needed experience and expertise?” Hon. Penn questioned.
He outlined that his vision, which has derived from the work previously started, supports the continued success of tourism, and among other things, calls for establishing a full-fledged Ministry of Tourism.
The Opposition Leader also stated that he supports the continual consultation involving all tourism stakeholders, relevant Government ministries, as well as the general public; protection of the environment and addressing climate change.
“My vision requires us to embrace concepts such as sustainable development, the green economy and the blue economy. My vision requires rapid development of key tourism infrastructure by Government, as well as the private sector both local and external,” Hon. Penn stated.
Premier Fahie had said that discussions on the National Tourism Plan prior to the emergence of COVID-19 did not conceive of the changes to the operating environment that could be triggered by a global pandemic.
According to the Premier, the last few months of living and working with the pandemic has highlighted the importance of domestic markets, whereas we have traditionally been focused on the foreign visitors.
Premier Fahie had disclosed that the Junior Minister will have a senior Tourism Advisor and a special committee would be formed which Hon. deCastro will Chair.
"As we look toward optimising our position in tourism, the Junior Minister of Tourism will be given the full authority and mandate to complete the National Tourism Plan by year-end 2021, so that this can be incorporated in the revenue stream for 2022," Premier Fahie had disclosed in his new year's message.
He explained that the special committee will include the Director of Tourism and the Chair of the BVI Tourist Board; President of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College; the Financial Secretary; the Managing Director and Chair of the BVI Airports Authority; the Managing Director and Chair of the BVI Ports Authority; Town and Country Planning; Head of Survey; President of BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association; Sister Islands member from Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and Anegada; the Taxi and Livery Association, as well as representatives from Oil Nut Bay, Necker Island and many of our other resorts, a Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park representative; a Crafts Alive representative among other representatives on this committee.
The Premier indicated that the role of the committee would be to review the Draft National Tourism Plan once it is completed.