Eight months after suffering the one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the British Virgin Islands are bouncing back in a significant way.
While it was previously only operating until 5 p.m. daily, Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport has resumed commercial evening flights. Travelers can once again reach the islands via connections in San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, and St. Maarten on Cape Air, LIAT, InterCaribbean Airways, and Seaborne Airlines. Additionally, many more hotels, resorts, and charter companies have opened their doors in preparation of the 2018 winter travel season.
Currently, the BVI Tourism Board is even running a Summer Sails promotion to spotlight its reopened charter companies and landside accommodations. Visitors can enjoy discounts on a minimum seven-day yacht charter or five- or seven-day hotel stay—depending on the property—as well as VIP clearance upon arrival (including a greeter and expedited customs and immigration processes) and coupons to redeem at local restaurants, bars, and more. Participating charters include BVI Yacht Charters, Seabbatical Long Term Charter, Horizon Yacht Charters, and The Moorings, while landside accommodations range from Cooper Island Beach Club and Guana Island to Leverick Bay Resort & Marina and Villa Sirenetta. Trips can be booked through BVI Summer Sails with code BVISS18; however, the promotion is only valid for travel from June 15 to August 15, 2018, and the tourism board is accepting only 100 bookings.
YACHT CHARTER UPDATE
Tourism and yachting are the economic cornerstones of the BVI, so the islands are striving to regain their status as a prime boating destination. The yachting sector began welcoming visitors in November 2017, and charter boat providers are once again sending visitors to cruising grounds. Ferries have also resumed operations between Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, St. Thomas, and St. John, as well as to smaller islands in the BVI.
While glass and wood continue to be in short supply for necessary infrastructure reconstruction, several boat yards, including Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, Nanny Cay Boat Yard, Tortola Yacht Services, and Soper’s Hole Boat Yard, are working to disassemble damaged yachts and repurpose their materials.
The following yacht charters are open for business. Other charter companies are working to assemble fleets to accommodate bookings.
Conch Charters: Operations have resumed on Tortola
Dream Yacht Charter: Reopened on Tortola last November and added two new boats to its fleet, the Sunreef 70 Muse and Lagoon 620 Reve2Mer
Horizon Yacht Charters: Operations have resumed from Nanny Cay on Tortola, with six new yachts added for the 2018 winter season
Sunsail: Operations have resumed on Tortola
The Moorings: One of the biggest charter bases in the world, The Moorings lost two thirds of its fleet during Hurricane Irma. The team rushed in boats from the Mediterranean to compensate and has since resumed operations on Tortola.
TMM Yacht Charters: Operations have resumed on Tortola
HOTEL AND RESTAURANT STATUS
Although hotels and restaurants on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and the smaller islands in the BVI were hit hard by Hurricane Irma, most are committed to rebuilding—and many have already reopened. Others, like Peter Island Resort and Rosewood Little Dix Bay, have announced that they’ll unfortunately be closed through 2018 or later.
Anegada Beach Club: Reopened February 1, 2018, with freshly rebuilt and upgraded facilities, including new luxury tents and an improved watersports center and restaurant
Bitter End Yacht Club: Hurricane Irma destroyed over 64 acres, one mile of shoreline, and over 50 structures at this renowned resort on Virgin Gorda. In February, however, BEYC announced that it has tapped notable architecture firm Simplemente Madera (known for Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco-Lodge, Jicaro Island Lodge, and Calala Island, all in Nicaragua) to develop the resort’s next chapter, with plans to reopen in 2019. In the meantime, the resort is running a relief fund to support its employees and the greater Virgin Gorda community and, as of February, had raised over $800,000.
Oil Nut Bay: Reopened its beach club, restaurant, resort amenities, and marina on December 16, 2017, and began renting villas and suites (with the exception of the Poseidon’s Perch Ridge and Montastraea East villas) on March 1, 2018
Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina: Reopened on a limited basis this spring with select accommodations and reduced dining options; a full reopening is slated for July 2018
Soggy Dollar Bar: Reopened on Jost Van Dyke on December 9, 2017, with plans to eventually rebuild the adjacent Sandcastle Hotel
Dive sites, including the 150-year-old wreck of the RMS Rhone off little Salt Island, were undamaged by Hurricane Irma.
Visitors can now also dive at the BVI Art Reef, a historic naval ship turned dive site just south of Virgin Gorda that Richard Branson and other BVI stakeholders opened in April. When photographer Owen Buggy learned that the Kodiak Queen—a former U.S. Navy fuel barge and one of only five ships to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941—was marked for the scrap heap, he enlisted Branson to help him turn it into a dive site.
The pair, along with the Maverick1000 group of entrepreneurs and other environmental organizations, then worked to save, clean, and sink the ship, creating an artificial reef, marine habitat, dive site, and large-scale underwater art installation that doubles as a coral nursery. The next phase of the project, currently underway, includes coral restoration, species monitoring, and ocean conservation education to positively impact the BVI ocean ecosystem.
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