A 19 page, 8500 word document submitted today, by VIPCA, to the Virgin Islands Government: How the Marine Industry Will Return the U.S. Virgin Islands to its Place as the Caribbean’s Premier Tourism Destination.
In this document we offer the following immediate, short-term and long-term strategies:
❖ Immediate: Improved Investment into International Marketing and Support of Marine Events by the Department of Tourism
❖ Short-term: Training and Human Resource Development in the Marine Industry
❖ Long-term: Development of Marine Infrastructure
➢ Increase revenue stream to DPNR through an effective enforcement team
➢ Streamline the process of registering boats in the territory, and applying for or renewing a business license
➢ Rejuvenate Charlotte Amalie Waterfront by opening town quay access to vessels
➢ Rejuvenation of Benner Bay
➢ Improvement of Customs facilities for charter vessels
➢ New dock access for charter vessels at Cyril E. King Airport
➢ Amend visa requirements for visiting yacht crew
➢ Promote the growth of waterfront restaurants on U.S. Virgin Islands’ beaches with accessibility to charter vessels and their dinghies
➢ Marine Industrial Park with trade school and dry dock to include a state-of-the-art marine haul out facility with vessel tie-down to protect vessels from hurricanes
➢ Solutions to marine ecosystem decline
➢ Develop the racing yacht and yacht transport industry
Oriel Blake, executive director of VIPCA concluded with the following statement:
The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Marine Industry is falling behind that of neighbouring Caribbean islands, and even the rest of the world. The Territory’s gifts of ocean-based offerings with its ease of travel should mean that the Marine Industry should be thriving, yet despite a recent apparent boom in the number of home-based charter yachts, these vessels relocate both for charter and for maintenance to other islands. Even yacht crew and technical service personnel are recruited from the U.S. mainland or overseas.
The marine tourism product including crewed yacht charter, sport-fishing and bareboat charter, must be strengthened in the Virgin Islands to leverage its most important tourism attracting asset; ready access to the sea. If at present these charter vessels directly contribute approximately $45 million annually to the economy whilst the industry is not at its full potential, then the economic contribution could be expected to more than double were the strategies in this document to be enacted (not taking into consideration the yacht transportation, marine haul-out and boat yard services or marine vendors, which could significantly further increase the direct contribution to the economy). It is vital for the Territory’s tourism to continue to compete internationally, and the marine service industries similarly must be strengthened to support the marine tourism product. By starting with an immediate investment into international marketing by the Department of Tourism we shall see more yachts and therefore a demand for more marine services. As the number of yachts in the Territory increases, increasing numbers of skilled captains and marine service technicians will need to be sourced from within the Virgin Islands, which requires training facilities to be developed here in the Virgin Islands. The development of marine infrastructure is also paramount to supporting the Marine Industry’s continued growth and success. We ask that the Government act now in its role as a facilitator, to create an appropriate enabling environment for the private sector to continue and increase investments in the sector.
In the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) 2009 Report, Subcommittee on Economic Development for Tourism, Hospitality and Retail (1. Goal 5, Objective 5) it is stated that there is a vision to “… develop and promote vibrant and sustainable tourism that provides exceptional experiences for the benefit of our guest and our community…. Support and expand the existing ocean tourism and recreation industry.”* Why, ten years later, are we asking the same questions? If “Tourism is the main business and we have to be extraordinary at it”**, let’s get to work, starting with the Marine Industry.
31 Governor Albert Bryan said at the July 2019 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Meeting