BVI-USVI Leaders Talk Tourism, Internet, Boating … and Politics

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and BVI Premier Natalio Wheatley met Thursday at Government House in St. Thomas. (Photo: screenshot of the live broadcast)

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and BVI Premier Natalio Wheatley met Thursday at Government House in St. Thomas to discuss common interests and potential collaborations offering high-speed Internet, year-round tourism, sport fishing and charter boats.

Bryan also spoke openly about the upcoming election in remarks that appeared to have been sent unintentionally.

It was the first Inter Virgin Islands council of the COVID era and both leaders said they were eager to walk common ground. Digitizing records and building strong internet connections are critical, Bryan said.

Wheatley said the dependence of both areas on off-island tourism – and on inter-island tourism – meant the sea and airports were key areas with overlapping concerns.

“We were able to discuss matters of mutual benefit and interest to ensure our residents and visitors have very clear and accommodating transportation between our respective homes,” Wheatley said. “We want to make noticeable progress not only with words, but also with deeds.”

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Bryan stressed that communication is key to a more productive relationship that maximizes the islands’ shared tourism potential.

“People all over the world are interested in food festivals and music festivals and all the other things that happen in the British Virgin Islands that make it great,” Bryan said. “Here on the US Virgin Islands, too, we want to extend our tourism season not just from November to May, but to the whole year. We can work on that together.”

The Inter Virgin Islands Council met at St Thomas. (Photo: screenshot of the live broadcast)

Neither leader spoke in detail about the discussions, but said an update to the 2004 MoU between the territories would be ready before the 50th BVI-USVI Friendship Day on October 22nd.

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At the start of the remarks, which were broadcast on Government House’s social media page, Bryan appeared unaware that the audio portion had begun.

Impromptu hot-mic remarks included the governor speaking about his administration’s two-year plan, which he said would be fully in place were it not for a “landslide” of disasters – not least COVID. He also spoke about the election, saying Kurt Vialet and Janelle Sarauw were the only competitors for him and Lt. gov. Tregenza Roach.

“I really don’t know why it should be a hard choice. If we lose, it’s not because we didn’t try,” Bryan said. “We will win.”

He said other gubernatorial candidates, Ronald Pickard and Stephen Frett, posed no political threat.

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Someone in the background asked how close the Vialet election was.

“They’re not even in the arena over here. In St. Croix, I think it closer,” Bryan said.

Roach was then heard briefly explaining the diverse needs and mindsets of the Virgin Islands voters before the broadcast abruptly halted.

The Inter Virgin Islands Council is the formal side of the BVI-USVI relationship and brings together key policymakers from both territories to explore ways to improve inter-island relations.

The Inter Virgin Islands Council was formed on May 29, 2004 when Governor Charles Turnbull and Chief Minister D. Orlando Smith signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The first meeting of the council took place in April 2005 in St. Croix.

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