Gov. Bryan talks intra-regional tourism in Washington, D.C. | Business


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Speaking at the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C. recently, Gov.Albert Bryan Jr. said that restoring intra-regional travel was an integral first step for restoring Caribbean tourism, and that Puerto Rico could be a key player in boosting tourism for the region and beyond.

Bryan concurred with Caribbean leaders on the importance of rebooting intra-Caribbean travel, while lamenting the inconvenience of needing to transit through Miami when traveling to a neighboring island. To avert such time-consuming diversions, he suggested a “greater hopper system” out of Puerto Rico.

“That’s a great hub, so you can get to some of the smaller islands that are emerging as tourism destinations,” as well as flying people who want to get to their homes in other Caribbean nations, Bryan said.

“So I think that Puerto Rico needs to develop that Caribbean hub and they need to develop their transit flights from Europe, as well as South America. That would have a huge impact on not only Puerto Rico, but also smaller islands,” he said.

Additionally, the governor asserted that Puerto Rico, because of its proximity to the USVI and its massive agricultural, production and shipping resources, can “single-handedly lower the cost of living in the Caribbean by establishing these food and service hubs in Puerto Rico, traveling out to our smaller islands.”

On the current state of the tourism sector, Bryan added that the USVI was in the midst of a $10 billion renovation of its infrastructure, including its ports and shoreline in Charlotte Amalie, revamping the city of Frederiksted on St. Croix and enhancing its sports tourism facilities. St. John, with its natural beauty, was booming in terms of visitors relaxing in the beauty of the beaches and the National Park, which he pledged would be preserved forever.

The V.I.’s open port approach also helped to strengthen a niche sector of the tourism industry — marine tourism.

“I allowed all of the U.S. flagged boats to return to the Virgin islands when Puerto Rico and other ports said no. And, we kept seeing more and more vessels every single day and when the pandemic set in really hard, they just stayed,” he said.

Among the incentives the Bryan Administration offered the private sector was legislation allowing hoteliers to use their room tax to revive and revamp their hotels as well as improvements or new hotel construction. Describing the incentive as “huge,” the governor reported Marriott Frenchman’s Reef on St. Thomas was expected to be operational by the end of the year, and planning for the return of the formerly Wyndham-flagged Sugar Bay was underway.

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