TORTOLA — When Hurricane Irma slammed into the British Virgin Islands on Sept. 6, it left the tourism industry, one of the territory’s main economic pillars, with over $3 billion in damages, according to BVI Tourist Board Director Sharon Flax Brutus.
“Preliminary assessment puts damage to the tourism sector at over $3 billion,” Flax Brutus said during a presentation to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
“After initial assessment of our tourism product on the main islands, as well as the private islands, we determined that the British Virgin Islands would have to implement a phased approach to bring the islands back to the vibrant tourist destination they were,” she said.
“Pre-hurricane, BVI was poised to have another record-breaking year and was anticipating the reopening of one of our flagship properties, Rosewood Little Dix Bay.”
Instead, the British Virgin Islands will not be opened to welcoming visitors and tourists until next month, Flax Brutus said.
The Tourist Board director said that in an effort to ensure the territory’s recovery and cleanup efforts are maximized, the BVI is not open to guests in October.
Closing the territory to tourists allows for assessments to be completed and for repairs on yachts, land side accommodations, attractions, beaches as well as to critical infrastructure including power, airports and seaports, which are essential to the enjoyment of visitors, she said.
“We have recognized that our yachting sector will be the first to open for business and I am proud to be able to announce that our first guests will be welcomed at Nanny Cay Marina beginning Nov. 5, when the BVI Charter Yacht Society Boat Show gives yacht brokers an opportunity to view the yachts that sail our waters as well as experience what their guests enjoy while in the British Virgin Islands,” she said.
With many of the territory’s marinas already open and several charter companies planning to open for the season, Flax Brutus urged people with reservations to reach out to their charter operator or to contact the British Virgin Islands Tourism Board.
Another major event that will go forward in the upcoming tourist season is the 47th BVI Sailing Regatta that will take place as planned from March 26 to April 1, Flax Brutus said.
Based on the levels of damage, some islands will rebound faster than others. Anegada, having been spared the brunt of the storms’ ravages, will likely by ready to receive guests at some properties on Nov. 1 when the territory is reopened to guests. The Anegada Lobster Festival will go off as scheduled on Nov. 25-26.
Virgin Gorda, Flax Brutus noted, will focus on its small properties and restaurants and will also be ready to receive guests in November.
Luxury properties such as Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Necker Island, Eustatia, Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock, however, sustained major damage, which will require extensive work before reopening.
Meanwhile, she added that businesses on Jost Van Dyke have started rebuilding process with some of the establishments in White Bay already open for business.
“Our private island resorts namely Peter Island Resort & Spa, Scrub Island Resort, Cooper Island and Guana Island are all rushing to complete assessments so they can begin the road back to a luxury vacation experience,” she said. “As we work to rebuild our beautiful British Virgin Islands, we anticipate launching a new and exciting campaign in the months ahead, but before that, we will launch a new microsite on bvitourism.com to keep our guests and partners updated on our recovery efforts.”