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VI optimistic @ UN panel on future of tourism

VI optimistic @ UN panel on future of tourism

The Virgin Islands (VI) has expressed confidence in the tourism sector’s recovery at a high-level panel on the Future of Tourism organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Agriculture and Fisheries, represented the VI on the virtual panel themed ‘An Inclusive Value Chain,’ on behalf of Premier and Minister responsible for Tourism, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1).

In his remarks, the Deputy Premier highlighted the VI’s safe and welcoming environment that is attracting visitors back to the destination.

According to Hon. Wheatley, “The BVI is open for business and is a safe destination for travellers. US News and World Report recently ranked the BVI number two in terms of the best places to visit in the Caribbean. Our COVID-19 cases currently stand at three and have largely remained in single digits due to our robust health and entry protocols. I start here because this is what currently underpins confidence in our destination. There is very low risk of infection.”

The Deputy Premier also emphasised the importance of cruise tourism and yachting to the recovery of the sector. However, he stressed the need for recovery to be inclusive and broad-based to provide jobs and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs). He also discussed the importance of strengthening linkages between the tourism sector and other economic sectors for more balanced economic growth.

“Among other things, we want to see stronger linkages between the Agriculture and Fisheries sectors and the hospitality industry. This will not only support and sustain the livelihoods of our local farmers and fisherman, but it will also add to our authenticity as a destination,” the Deputy Premier said.

Honourable Wheatley, who is also Minister for Culture, described the high potential of the Creative Industries to contribute to the growth of tourism, saying, “we also see a major opportunity in the Creative Industries to boost Cultural Tourism. The VI has untapped potential in terms of displaying and promoting our cultural heritage and the arts.”

The Deputy Premier concluded his remarks by reminding the audience of the negative impact of COVID-19 on the VI economy that is still being felt by laid off workers and their families. However, he expressed optimism that conditions will improve with the increasing number of tourist arrivals.

The panel was part four of UNDP’s Regional Dialogue on the Future of Tourism which took place virtually on June 10, 2021 and was broadcast across the Caribbean and internationally on UWI TV.

Other panellists included: Mr Neil Walters, Secretary General (Ag) of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO); Ms Valerie Cliff, UNDP Resident Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean; Ms Helena Ray, Programme Manager at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Mr Frank Comito, Special Advisor and former CEO, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA); and Mr Carl Hunter, Environmental Committee Chairman, Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association (SLHTA). The panel was moderated Ms Tonni Brodber, Representative of UN Women for the Caribbean.

The Deputy Premier was joined by Mr E. Benito Wheatley, Special Envoy of the Premier, and Ms Dwynel Davis, Assistant Secretary for External Affairs at the International Affairs Secretariat.

The VI is rated Level 1 (lowest level of COVID-19) by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in terms of the prevalence of COVID-19 on the islands and ranks among the top tier of destinations considered safe for travel.
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