Speaking at the annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference in Puerto Rico, USVI Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said the delegation gathered valuable information about cruising’s evolution.
Responding to changing needs
The governor added that the USVI delegation, which included Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte, his team at the Department of Tourism and representatives from the West Indian Co. Ltd. and the Virgin Islands Port Authority, was so well briefed by the cruise industry leaders that they can confidently plan how the territory should further respond to the changing needs of the sector.
Underscoring the timeliness of the meetings, the governor said that with friendly competition throughout the region and the world, the face-to-face sessions were a ‘good checkup on our health to see what we're doing right and, most importantly, what we're not doing enough of.’
Sustained infrastructure investment is continuing apace, Bryan said, adding that dredging projects, the addition of a new port in the Charlotte Amalie harbor, improvements on Main Street and the upland plans for Crown Bay are important developments for ensuring the Virgin Islands keep up with cruise sector growth.
The governor also stressed the importance of regional collaboration. The USVI delegation attended the FCCA Conference alongside several Caribbean heads of state, including Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie and Prime Minister of St. Lucia Allen Chastanet.
Easing clearance for European cruisers
Bryan cited areas of opportunity including responding to European market demand as well as revitalizing the visitor experience. He also said it is important to collaborate with the federal authorities: ‘Working through our visa issues with the US government to allow those (international) passengers to disembark very quickly and enjoy our islands brings a whole new flock of tourists that have never been for the first time, not only to enjoy their daytime experience but to come back again and enjoy overnight stays.’
Balancing St. Thomas and St. Croix business
The governor also referred to the need to rebalance the industry: ‘We have a very mature tourism product in St. Thomas and we have an emerging market in St. Croix (and) St. John. (We must determine) how do we combine those things in the right way that not only gives us the spend that we want, but also attracts the type of customer that's going to have the vacation that they want in the US Virgin Islands?’
During the convention, representatives of Coral World Ocean Park, Cruise Ship Excursions, Island Networks, Leatherback Brewing Co., Pirates Treasure Museum, Skyride To Paradise Point and the Virgin Islands’ 'Bush Tea Lady' featured their products and attractions.
Commissioner Boschulte led an interactive session with Virgin Islands operators and cruise line executives to help strengthen the bonds between the cruise industry and the territory's private sector. ‘We are very satisfied with our progress on bolstering this very important cruise pillar,’ the commissioner stated, thanking private sector partners and especially his tourism team for all that they do to deliver an exceptional visitor experience.
‘We have a lot of work to do and look forward to elevating our game in the weeks and months ahead,’ he said.