REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
AT THE OFFICIAL CEREMONY FOR THE OPENING OF THE TORTOLA PIER PARK
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
“DESTINATION BVI ON THE MOVE”
Good afternoon to all of you here in this beautiful park and to those who are listening at home.
Destination BVI is on the move!
Less than nine months ago we were just a few steps away dedicating the expanded and extended cruise pier and the inaugural call of Norwegian Cruise lines. And we did promise to be back!
Here we are today at another landmark achievement—Tortola Pier Park: a significant milestone dedicated to you the people of the Virgin Islands for your tremendous commitment to this Territory that we all so love!
Our journey began on January 17 2014, when we took the significant step forward towards greater stability and growth for the Virgin Islands, with the signing of the berthing agreements between Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings Limited and Disney Cruise Lines for a long-term relationship.
These agreements marked the first time in the history that the BVI would have a guaranteed number, more than 400,000 cruise passengers coming to our shores all year round.
With these berthing agreements, we demonstrated, as a Territory, that Destination BVI was on the move!
Then four months later, on May 8, 2014, we broke ground signaling a new day!
It was a new day for our tourism product; and a new day for our cruise tourism industry. And, that is why we spared no communications effort in telling people to get ready!
Tourism continues to have some of the strongest connections to the other sectors of our economy.
It is the sector that holds the biggest investment opportunities for our people.
And, it is the sector that tells the world who we are culturally.
Gone are the days when white sandy beaches, our crystal clear blue sea, and beautiful sunsets were the marketing tune.
After all, everybody in the region has caught that fever!
In order to stay ahead of the game, we had to move in a new direction, and do more to offer a unique difference and standout.
Speaking from personal experience — and I have travelled far and wide on business and for pleasure — I can say without fear of contradiction that what we have created here today is unsurpassed anywhere.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no other destination offering the quality and variety of offerings that we do today.
We have authentic businesses opened today selling a wide variety of merchandise from jewelry to a very wide variety of clothing, to art to exotic drinks...you name it — it’s here at this Pier Park!
These 23 retail shops, along with the many more that will be added, are living testimony to the creativity, the innovative spirit and yes the daring spirit of our business community.
This park is our first opportunity to create that lasting impression as cruise passengers meet the Territory, and some of them for the first time.
Our collective responsibility when they get here is to captivate them, and provide an authentic visitor experience, so that they become tomorrow’s overnight visitor.
All persons working at our ports of entry must be of the same mindset.
Our Taxi drivers must be on that same page.
Our restaurants and shops must be committed to this, if we are to remain among the top destinations in the world, renowned for our guest experiences.
Now is the time for us to display the best of what we have to offer, whether it is local cuisine, drinks, cultural entertainment or unique Virgin Islands souvenirs.
Ladies and gentlemen, Destination BVI is on the move!
But, this Pier Park is also meant to be enjoyed equally by the residents of the BVI.
Indeed it would be a travesty if we were to close down this beautiful park when the cruise ships have gone away for the evening.
There is some work that we will have to do to level the playing field for all our merchants, be they inside or outside the park but we will get there shortly.
I am thrilled that the new array of stores are being patronised by both locals and visitors. In their own unique ways, these businesses have captured the essence of BVI craft, souvenirs, food, drink, artwork and much more.
Last night after spending the whole day in the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Assembly I stopped by the Pier Park to check out how well our merchants were coming along as they rushed to get ready for today.
I can tell you I caught the bug of excitement!
I cannot think of a time when I was more proud of my people!
I encourage everyone to continue to support these businesses to help build our economy.
I also want to thank our local entrepreneurs for having the confidence and foresight to be tourism business ambassadors in our pier park.
With the vision to be the premier shopping, dining and entertainment facility in the region, I know that our Pier Park will surpass the competition.
I am extremely satisfied with the volume of cruise passengers visiting the Territory since the opening of our expanded cruise pier.
Let's keep our shopping facilities sufficiently exciting that there would be no need to look beyond these shores.
Fellow Virgin Islanders, residents and friends, we are making progress together.
My Government is advancing the development of this Territory, and the people of the Virgin Islands remain at the centre of our plans for shared sustainable growth and sound infrastructural development. The expected benefits throughout the entire Territory – Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke and all of our outer islands - will be tremendous.
We ARE Destination BVI, a unique travel experience like none other in the Caribbean.
We are supporting our local business partners that share this vision and understand customer satisfaction. We are embracing innovation in our tourism industry, and high quality products that support this.
I commend the Minister for Communications and Works, Honourable Mark Vanterpool, for delivering on this project. He has taken a lot of unnecessary licks for this one but he steadfastly kept his eye on the prize - the prize of today!
I thank the Board of Directors of the BVI Ports Authority and the staff of , the BVI Ports Authority team who all assisted in different ways to bring my Government’s vision for the Tortola Pier Park to fruition.
I especially acknowledge the financial support of the Social Security Board, CIBC First Caribbean and the people of the Territory who have all made significant contributions to our Tortola Pier Park.
We could not stand here today, if you did not share the tourism dream with us.
We also have two very special guests sharing our celebrations -- Director for Destination Development, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Mr. Andrew Duckworth; and Director for Marine Port, Security Operations, and Maritime Affairs, Disney Cruise Lines, Mr. Russell Daya.
Mr. Duckworth and Mr. Daya, I am truly delighted that you could share this historic moment with us.
We hope that your passengers will feel so special here in the BVI that they will return again and again
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am so proud of this Pier Park! Here is a place that you can come to window shop, to shop, to enjoy a drink or some good food, or just a place to hang out.
But most importantly we are building a better Virgin Islands for generations to come.
I am excited and your numbers here today say that you are too. I wish everyone and our merchants in particular the wisdom to make decisions that will give you the best possible return on your investment.