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BVI waited too long to reopen and now its hurting us - Penn

BVI waited too long to reopen and now its hurting us - Penn

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has said he believes the territory “waited a little too long” to reopen its borders after its initial COVID-19 lockdown last year and is now facing the consequences of that delay.

The territory’s borders closed in March 2020 and never reopened to visitors till nine months later.

Appearing on the Umoja radio show recently, Penn said: “We are where we are right now and I think we have to move forward. I think one of the things that we suggested as an Opposition early in May was for us to start the restart process in September of last year.”

He said the slow economic period around that time should have allowed for a ‘testing phase’ of any systems and programmes that needed to be put in place.

Poor balance

According to Penn, the BVI did not strike the right balance between health and the economy and is now seeing some of the growing pains from that error.

“A lot of the businesses struggled for a long time,” Penn said. “Some of them were shut down for a long time, especially with the tourism space. [They] were shut down for over 13 months, 13 to 18 months. That’s a long time for any business to be shut down and to get them back up and running and to get them restarted again it’s going to cost a tremendous amount of money.”

The Opposition Leader said this was especially true for businesses that need inventory and have already expended all their capital that is needed to do those types of things.

And with smaller ships coming to the territory at the moment, Penn suggested that economic activity may not increase for some cruise-dependent businesses until late November.

He suggested that this issue is further compounded for some businesses given the “bubble” type arrangement which largely sees cruise ship guests taken to isolated areas such as Cane Garden Bay and Beef Island.

More targeted approach needed

The Opposition Leader called for a better marketing approach that would allow more businesses to benefit from the cruise passengers that are coming to the territory.

As an example, he pointed to Pier Park vendors whose rent he said was largely predicated on receiving foot traffic from cruise ships.

“If that foot traffic is not staying in the pier park, then it puts them in a really bad position,” Penn stated.

He said monies for these businesses are largely expended on rent and inventory and they now have a situation where they have a lot of inventory they can’t offload.


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