Plans to ramp up efforts to draw more visitors to the British Virgin Islands include improving the tourist product, tightening expenses to focus on targeted marketing and boosting television and trade show exposure, according to Myron Walwyn, chairman of the BVI Tourist Board.
The first step already has been taken with the launch of a website at www.bvitourism.com, as well as a microsite at www.bvitraveloffers.com that showcases travel deals from suppliers throughout the BVI.
The tourist board also plans to pare down expenses by moving to a virtual office model, Walwyn said; in those cases, sales reps will work from their homes. The Dallas office will go virtual, and the Miami location will be a satellite office to be used by reps and employees when in town for meetings.
Doors will close later this year on offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, meanwhile, leaving the New York office as the BVI’s only physical office in the U.S.
"The cuts will yield approximately $250,000 in annual savings, leaving more of the actual budget to marketing efforts," Walwyn said. "In this current economic climate, the BVI needs to increase and maintain brand awareness while targeting specific markets where promotional activities can increase visitor numbers."
To improve service standards, the board will hold tourism seminars for the islands’ hospitality workers, including bartenders, housekeepers and wait staff. Officials hope to have taxi drivers operate from set taxi stands, dress in uniforms with nametags and implement a dispatch system at points of entry.
"The standards of service must improve if we are to have a fighting chance in the global scheme," Walwyn said. "We are not just competing within the Caribbean but with the world."
Plans to improve the tourist product include adding signage at 20 historical sites, completing the restoration of a 1940s sugar mill that will be open to visitors and adding bathroom facilities at the Baths and Spring Bay on Virgin Gorda and at SkyWorld on Tortola.
Targeted marketing plans call for a focus on the accommodations sector with an emphasis on small hotels, inns and villas.
The BVI will have a presence at two tennis events in the U.S. this month and at a culinary exhibit during the Annapolis Boat Show in Maryland in October.
New, 30-second travel ads began airing on CNN this month and will run until next summer, Walwyn said.