TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS—When Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Caribbean, more than 90% of the accommodations—along with power and mobile telecommunications—were lost on the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
BVI—an archipelago comprising 60 islands and cays located 60 miles east of Puerto Rico, in the northwestern region of the Caribbean Sea with the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke—has been working its way back to normal operations, and as of this writing, 42% of land accommodation inventory—more than 1,000 rooms—has reopened.
“The strategy used by the BVI government and the BVI Tourist Board to help hotels, resorts, villas, etc., in the process of reopening has been to facilitate by providing hotel aid and other duty-free concessions for importation of building materials and other items to rebuild or renovate their properties,” said Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism at The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board. “[We] facilitated the migration of skilled workers into the territory for the rebuilding process. Additionally, the government appointed a tourism liaison officer under the auspices of the Premier’s Office and BVI Tourist Board, to assist properties with expediting the relevant government applications, including hotel aid and work permits.”
Many of BVI’s most popular resorts have already reopened. “Favorites such as Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, an Autograph Collection hotel; Cooper Island Beach Club; Guana Island Resort; Oil Nut Bay; Necker Anegada Beach Club, and more were back open after a year of the storms,” she said. “A number of villas and small properties also opened to serve visitors very soon after the storms, including the Mariner Inn, Treasure Isle Hotel and Maria’s by the Sea.”
Many properties used the storms to significantly upgrade their facilities. “Irma was seen generally as an opportunity for renewal,” said Flax-Brutus. “In many cases, the damage was so extensive, it was more practical to execute upgrades and expansions that may have been planned before the storm but did not have time to execute just yet. Properties carried out upgrades and expansion while ensuring that they kept the essence of the property that repeat guests have grown to love.”
Among the resorts that took advantage of the storm damage to upgrade are Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, which reopened with an expanded private beach, Anegada Beach Club, which added new glamping accommodations, and Oil Nut Bay, which added a new marina village as well as new guest suites.
Flax-Brutus said that more properties are scheduled to open soon. “Currently, Rosewood Little Dix Bay, a luxury resort on Virgin Gorda, is set to reopen in the winter 2019/2020 season. Additionally, Bitter End Yacht Club will open its marina in Spring 2019 and its resort in 2020. Biras Creek Resort, which has been closed for the past few years, plans to open its first phase for the 2019/2020 season,” she said.
Renovated properties are not the only ones coming online in the next few years. “New developments in the pipeline, like Norman Island, Quito’s Inn in Tortola and Blunder Bay in Virgin Gorda, have improved the outlook for tourism accommodations in the coming years,” she said. “Blunder Bay will be a boutique luxury resort with amenities including a beach, helipad and marina. Fifty percent of the property will remain as a natural habitat.”
Norman Island will be developed as an environmentally conscious, luxury residential and tourist destination. The plan includes sites for three potential 20 to 30-room hotels, boat slips for day visitors and residents, a spa and an observatory. It also provides ownership opportunities for 75 to 100 residences discreetly located within the island’s 610 acres. Norman is reputed to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and has waterside caves, hiking trails and one of the territory’s largest and best protected anchorages, The Bight.
With its mild winds and short distances between the 60 islands, islets, rocks and cays dotted throughout the territory, BVI is considered the sailing capital of the world—in fact, many of its visitors arrive by boat.
Tourists are also attracted to its natural beauty, according to Flax-Brutus, including the rock formations of The Baths National Park. “The various islands that make up BVI are all unique in their own way and offer something for all types of travelers,” she said. “BVI is also known as a multi-destination boutique location featuring intimate accommodations with a luxury feel.” HB