Bryan Talks Of Airbnb’s Growth, Resurgence Of Visitors To USVI At CHRIS Conference In Miami
MIAMI — Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. addressed the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) that took place in Miami Beach this week and said that the tourism industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands is robust
— and now is the time for investors to take advantage of what the territory has to offer.
Bryan told investors attending the conference that the territory has about 2,500 of its 4,500 hotel rooms available with three of the four major hotels still undergoing repairs. He also shared that the Virgin Islands received an estimated 1.9 million annual visitors in 2018 and airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix are currently operating at about 90 percent capacity.
The governor also pitched potential developers the 100 percent deduction on local taxes; 90 percent deduction on federal taxes; and said the Bryan/Roach Administration would help developers through the permitting, financing and construction phases to get a new hotel built in the Territory.
“Right now we have opportunities in the Virgin Islands where you can take your capital out and get a tax deferment, [that’s] a U.S. tax deferment, for ten years,” Bryan said. “Anything you make from that money, you get that tax-free as well, and any of the dividends from that money is tax-free, We’re going through tremendous growth.”
At the panel discussion which featured Bryan, British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie and President Daniel Gibbs of the Collective de St. Martin was also in attendance. He also discussed the V.I. government’s support for smaller hotels to assist as they rebuild and begin hosting travelers again.
“If you look at our numbers from year to year, even with the storms, we’re still coming back to our high of 2.6 million [visitors], which was in 2012, very, very rapidly,” Bryan said. “This year from last year, we’re up to 1.9 million in total passengers to the territory.”
The chief executive also discussed the tourism experiences offered on St. John, which is an emerging product that is considered a luxury destination with an eco-sensitive tourism product, and viewed St. Croix as one of the top priorities of his administration as the island continues to develop and attract visitors in search of authentic Caribbean experiences.
“We’re trying to do the things now that will make sure that St. Croix will be a destination, complete with giving it its own identity,” Bryan told investors attending the conference.
He also spoke about working with partners from the hotel industry and the cruise industry to bring St. Thomas back as a premier tourist destination as quickly as possible after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
With a $40 million Waterfront project on St. Thomas, $20 million in upgrades at the Cyril E. King Airport coupled with the enhancements underway on Main Street on St. Thomas the territory’s capitol is poised to host more travelers as infrastructure upgrades begin.
“We’re looking very aggressively for new attractions to come to the island so people can see a new St. Thomas when they get there,” Bryan said. “On St. John, we’ve lost our luxury product, Caneel Bay, which was destroyed during the storms, and we’re making all the arrangements and working with the owner there to get that resort open.”
The Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit is an annual event that provides opportunities and insight for investors and other entities of the finance industry to network and interact with governments, businesses, and stakeholders in the hospitality industry to include the Caribbean Tourism Industry.
“On St. Croix, lots of things are happening there as well. A $33 million stadium that is going in Frederiksted. Lots of incentives are coming up now where we’re able to do our ‘One Town Frederiksted,’ which is our main cruise port, to encourage the building of Airbnb’s” Governor Bryan said. “We have a $25 million arena that is going in at the university so that we can accommodate large conferences as well as tournaments, like our Thanksgiving tournament on St. Thomas, Paradise Jam for college basketball.”
The three-day event is attended by delegates who are focused on hotel development and investment in the region, and it features an extensive array of sessions and panels led by hotel, cruise, and finance industry experts.
“We found it important to actively pursue hotel investment by attending meetings like this where experienced investors that know the Caribbean product is attending. we were happy to share with them the opportunities in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Bryan said.
Others attending the conference with the governor included: Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte; Government Employees Retirement System Administrator Austin Nibbs; Economic Development Authority Director Kamal Latham; and V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Damian Cartwright.
While he was in Miami, the governor had one-on-one meetings with numerous hotel investors, according to Government House.
Video of the Governor’s address is available on the Government House Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI/