British Virgin Islands Pier Expansion Highlights Land And Sea Tourism Growth
PHOTO: The BVI’s expanded cruise ship pier in Road Town, Tortola. (Courtesy of the BVI Tourist Board).
The British Virgin Island (BVI)’s recently completed cruise pier expansion is the highlight of a string of tourism infrastructure enhancements under way in recent years in this eastern Caribbean destination.
Located in Road Town, the capital of the archipelago’s main island of Tortola, the cruise ship pier has been lengthened and widened to accommodate larger cruise ships, according to Sharon Flax-Mars, director of the BVI Tourist Board (BVITB).
The BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA), which is directing the $52 million expansion, is currently working on Tortola Pier Park, an adjacent five-acre land-based development that will feature commercial, entertainment and green spaces, plus restaurant and shopping facilities. “Several of the buildings are near completion and the park is expected to officially open before year end,” said Flax-Mars.
The expansion will ultimately add a boardwalk and a separate dock facility for local excursions. The plan also calls for additional dredging and land reclamation work.
The pier expansion is intended to support the destination’s strategy to increase its cruise ship arrivals. BVIP negotiated cruise passenger traffic contracts with Disney and Norwegian Cruise Line in advance of the project, reaching agreements to bring an additional 425,000 annual visitors to the territory by 2015.
The British Virgin Islands hosted 367,362 cruise ship passengers in 2013 based on Caribbean Tourism Organization data, down from as many as 571,000 visitors in 2008. BVTB officials attribute the slide to the destination’s inability to accommodate larger cruise ships. BVI cruise arrival numbers rebounded somewhat last year to 378,083, a 2.9 percent increase over 2013.
While BVITB officials are seeking to increase the destination’s cruise-ship arrivals, BVI land-based vacations remain popular with travelers as well. Last year the country hosted 386,049 overnight visitors, a 5.4 percent increase over 2013 arrivals.
A variety of attractions and traveler accommodations drive the country’s near-equal popularity among land-based and seagoing vacationers. The archipelago is considered among the Caribbean’s leading sailing and water sports destinations. There are also a variety of events focused on the country’s culture and cuisine.
This fall Sir Richard Branson will host The Necker Cup, a five-night Pro-Am Tennis event on the archipelago’s Necker Island from Nov. 28 through Dec. 3. Activities will include paddle boarding, beach tennis, sail boat races, kite boarding, wake boarding and snorkeling. Taste of Tortola and Taste of Virgin Gorda events, featuring chef demonstrations, mixologist competitions, local cuisine, are planned for Nov. 7 and 21, respectively.
The two-day Anegada Lobster Festival, scheduled for Nov. 28 and 29, will offer culinary creations featuring the country’s spiny lobster served in grilled, jerked, curried, ceviche, broiled and stewed styles.
BVI-based VI Airlink this year launched twice-weekly, scheduled flights from Antigua to the BVI on Fridays and Saturdays. The flights are scheduled to connect with service from Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.
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