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Interview with the Tourist Board BVI about August Festival 2013

Photography provided by BVI Tourist Board from Team FotoShop

BVI August Festival Month – High Value Season – Q & A

With the change of times, fluctuating to reflect demands of the community, the British Virgin Islands has witnessed some dramatic shifts in its economy and social infrastructure.

Incorporated in these changes, the term ‘slow season’—a period of time defined by a decrease in tourism, absence of cruise ship visits and vacation for BVI residents—is argued to be a fading concept.

Some would propose that this has been influenced by businesses remaining active for extended periods than the traditional December – April stretch and others would suggest that BVI residents are seeking a cost effective way to enjoy a holiday via ‘staycation’, which is easily accommodated here as the paradisiacal locale it is.

Enthusiasm about August, the concept of ‘staycation,’ and the appreciation of Festival is shared by many, but what is really happening in August? Is this still the ‘slow season’ or are we now seeing a revolutionary ‘high value season?’

Lynette Harrigan, Niché Marketing Manager – The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission

Q. What can we expect from August Festival in Tortola this year? What will be different from previous years to attract visitors and residents?

A. This year August, you will see a more balanced line up and of a higher calibre; something that residents and visitors look forward too. The nightly line up plays a very important role in getting folks to the village. The Committee has been working hard also to make the look and feel of the village more cultural and will be adding a cultural décor to the stage and the village. The feedback from the public has been a positive one and I think we will see along with the fantastic line up, a great parade as well on August Monday, where we celebrate our freedom in the streets.

Q. What do you think August Festival means to residents in the community? Do people still see it as a celebration of the emancipation or something else?

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A. August Festival still means emancipation from slavery for BVI residents; even though we have the nightly entertainment in the village, we still carry on the true tradition of freedom by our Freedom March and the Sunday morning well service. As you know, the abolition of slavery occurred on 1 August 1834, and to this day it is celebrated by a three-day public holiday on the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of August – something unique to the British Virgin Islands.

Q. What do you think of the idea of ‘slow season?’ Is this starting to disappear with many companies now staying open?

A. The BVI has been for some years now experiencing a longer season. At first, it was December to April, but now we have June, July and into August. We have even seen an early start in November so with the marketing we have been doing along with the focus on Latin American and other markets, we will see longer seasons as their winter is our summer. Our hotel partners also hit the ground running and together with their marketing efforts and the boards, we are seeing the numbers increase.

Jo-Ann Downing, Director – Voyage Charters, BVI

Q. Would it be accurate to say Voyage is seeing a very productive year?

A. Yes. June was fully booked at Voyage Charters, which has not been so in the past. July is also extremely busy all the way through to the 15 August, when we haul out the fleet. Boats are launched again at the beginning of October.

Q. Is ‘slow season’ still an issue or is there potential to profit at this time?

A. I think there is a market for August & September, however boating is a concern for charter companies due to hurricanes. On the positive side, all three Mystique Day Sailing catamarans will be available for charter right through the season including September. You might find that weddings on the water become popular during the off season due to lower rates.

Kareem and Valerie Rhymer, Owners – Myett’s Cane Garden Bay, BVI

Q. As a business that stays open for 365 days a year, do you think the idea of ‘slow season’ still exists?

A. We prefer to call it ‘value’ season. The rates are lower and so are the crowds. You get good value.

Q. How does August affect your hotel bookings and restaurant attendance? How is it looking this year?

A. We are hosting the Black Boaters Summit which will bring in a nice crowd at the beginning of August. And, there is the festival which attracts a lot of people from the USVI’s and Puerto Rico. The visitors like to stop in. We have opened our new beach bar & lounge and we will be having fun beach parties with DJ’s, Volleyball, Paddle Boarding and great specials throughout the summer. We plan to be busy.

Q. Are you still the only restaurant to stay open in Cane Garden Bay? Does this work well for Myetts?

A. I think we are – although, I think it would be nice for our guests to have other places to go while they are here visiting. They are always a bit disappointed that the other businesses are closed.

Carol Olympitis – General Manager, BVI Sotheby’s Vacation Villas

Q. What do you think of the August tourism market?

A. The vacation rental market is strong and strengthening – visitors enjoy being part of the community and are able to choose from a vast array of villas to suit all budgets. Families are particularly keen on villa rentals as they are able to bring together all age-groups under one roof, keeping costs down and enabling them to discover more of our beautiful islands and beaches. We have also noticed a trend for visiting businessmen to choose a spacious villa over a small bedroom in a hotel, particularly if their visits last a week or longer.

Villa rentals also contribute to the local businesses, whether it is for the purchase of provisions, car rentals, spa treatments, boat hire or in the restaurants or bars of the BVI.

Chris Smith, Managing Director – Coldwell Banker Real Estate, BVI

Q. What do you think of August/’staycation’/slow season with regard to businesses?

A. Traditionally, most places in the BVI have gotten very quiet in August. Part of that is due to the beginning of the hurricane season so the tourists didn’t come, but the other part of it is that in Tortola with a large expat community, many with young kids, lots of people choose that time to leave the island and go home to visit family and friends, because it fits with the school holidays. So on Tortola it’s tough for local retail businesses to survive through August since they lose both the tourists and the lawyers and their families!

Q. How’s business in the villa rental sector for August?

A. The good news is that the tourist season has definitely gotten longer. It used to be – 15 years ago or so – that the season lasted until April/May, then there would be a few weddings and honeymooners in July and that was about it. Now many of our vacation rental villas are busy right through July and several are still full in August.

Q. Do you think the concept of slow season is still valid or have things changed?

A. If you manage to avoid a hurricane and you visit the BVI in the summer, the weather can be fantastic! Especially if you like to explore the islands by powerboat, since there’s more chance the sea will be calmer and less chance of encountering a big chop or swell. True it doesn’t cool down at night quite so much, but most of our vacation homes these days have air conditioning.

Q. Could the BVI be doing more to promote to potential visitors and influence more ‘staycations?’

A. Picking niche markets, who will travel during the summer months is key. The Italians, for example, used to flock to Little Dix in August. I’m not sure that’s still the case. More family oriented packages and activities would be useful either to entice those with kids living and working here to stay over the summer months and not to make the long haul home, or to attract those with kids out of school to consider the BVI for a vacation.

In summary, the BVI can be a fantastic and very beautiful place to visit during the summer months and more and more people seem to be realising this.

Erin Paviour-Smith

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