Tourism booms as Covid ebbs

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: The BVI Beacon

The tourism season started barely two weeks ago, but business is already booming at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar on Jost Van Dyke.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a season like this before,” said proprietor Justine Callwood. “We’ve had so many yachts and day boats, and more people with advanced reservations.”

She’s not the only one: Resorts and villa operators, yacht charterers, and cruise stakeholders across the territory are all expecting a busy season as Covid-19 concerns fade after two consecutive pandemic slumps, according to Tourism Director Clive McCoy.

“We’re extremely happy about it and happy that the VI is going to be doing very well,” he said.

Land-based accommodations and charter companies have reported robust bookings through the first quarter of 2023, and scheduled cruise ship calls are back to pre-Covid levels, according to Mr. McCoy.

Tourism businesses, meanwhile, are scrambling to take full advantage of the expected influx of visitors.

Foxy’s, for instance, is already planning its famous Old Year’s Night party, and Ms. Callwood said the island has “a few hundred reservations” on the books.

“We’re ahead of the curve on that,” she added.

On the water

Andrew Ball, the chairman of the Marine Association of the BVI, said the charter industry is off to a strong early start as well.

“There are a number of charter companies that are saying they’re already booked out till May or June,” he said. “A number of boats couldn’t even attend the [Charter Yacht Society Fall] boat show since they were out on charter. In terms of tourist interest in the season, we’re in great shape, but our [yacht] inventory is a little low.”

Mr. McCoy added that a few new cruise ships are scheduled to call in the territory next year. the influx of tourists early in the season has been driven in part by pent-up demand following the widespread cancellations and rescheduling that occurred during the pandemic.

“Part of why you see more business in the off-peak period is because you’ve had rooms being rescheduled or boat charters that were cancelled and rescheduled,” Mr. Putnam explained.

Ms. Callwood said that she too believes that tourism may be increasingly expanding into the “shoulder seasons.” Foxy’s, she added, is standing by to fill any demand that arises.

“There’s so much more opportunity for everybody, including charter yachts,” she added.

For Foxy’s, events are a major part of their future plans. Besides Old Year’s — which will feature an African safari theme with African food — Ms. Callwood said she’s interested in hosting a blackjack run and the return of HempFest, which is usually held in July.

The iconic location is also looking to have a larger Halloween party next year to draw out crowds earlier in the season.

“We don’t have anything definitely scheduled for early next year, but we’re considering doing something,” she added.

“There are no restrictions on the number of people that can come on the ships, so we are happy about that,” he said.

‘All hands on deck ’

Given the influx of visitors, Mr. McCoy said he hopes the tourism industry will have “all hands on deck.”

“Our best marketing is word of mouth, so the way we treat our guests matters,” he said. “We’re some of the most friendly people in the world.”

Mr. Ball added that ongoing “problems with border clearance and entry” also need to be rectified straightaway.

“We have all these numbers and all these people here and they need to leave with a good impression,” he said. “The world is coming out of Covid and it’s a perfect time to reinvent yourself and put your issues in the past, but there’s not going to be another opportunity in the future.”

In Virgin Gorda, the Bitter End Yacht Club has been busy since the end of October, according to marine and water-sports manager Nick Putman.

‘Good business’

“We did a lot of good business in the later parts of October and early Novem- ber,” he said. “A lot of that is starting to spill over into the more shoulder [months], which would be your No- vembers and later in the year in May, June or July.”

Mr. Putnam and Ms. Callwood speculated that the influx of tourists early in the season has been driven in part by pent-up demand following the widespread cancellations and rescheduling that occurred during the pandemic.

“Part of why you see more business in the off-peak period is because you’ve had rooms being rescheduled or boat charters that were cancelled and rescheduled,” Mr. Putnam explained.

Ms. Callwood said that she too believes that tourism may be increasingly expanding into the “shoulder seasons.” Foxy’s, she added, is standing by to fill any demand that arises.

“There’s so much more opportunity for everybody, including charter yachts,” she added.

For Foxy’s, events are a major part of their future plans. Besides Old Year’s — which will feature an African safari theme with African food — Ms. Callwood said she’s interested in hosting a blackjack run and the return of HempFest, which is usually held in July.

The iconic location is also looking to have a larger Halloween party next year to draw out crowds earlier in the season.

“We don’t have anything definitely scheduled for early next year, but we’re considering doing something,” she added.

NewsAmericasNow.com