The leaders of both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands met last week in Road Town, Tortola and discussed areas of shared interest and ways to enhance the relationship between the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands, during the eighth meeting of the Inter Virgin Islands Council.
The Feb. 4 meeting was the group’s first since hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated both territories in 2017, and the first for both USVI Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and BVI Premier Andrew Fahie’s respective administrations, according to a statement from Government House.
Government House reported both leaders spoke about the cultural and familial ties shared between residents of the USVI and BVI and stressed the importance of the council working to enhance visitor experiences, strengthen border security and capitalize on opportunities for economic growth.
“I am pleased that we have been able to ventilate several areas, and we handled complicated topics because we stayed in oneness in purpose for the Greater Virgin Islands,” Fahie said, according to the Government House release.
“One of the things coming out of this meeting is there will be no business as usual, but business unusual. This means that our standing committees will meet once a month to ensure that we iron out the areas we have in common and work out the grey areas where there are differences. The objective is for the committees to work together so that in the next couple of months, we can come up with solutions ahead of the meeting next year. We have stated now that we want a Greater Virgin Islands and we will work towards that direction,” Fahie said.
His USVI counterpart said the cooperative council opens the door for more collaboration between the two island territories.
“We had a very productive day going over a variety of issues that will be mutually beneficial to our people, but the one thing that is key is the strong familial ties that lie between the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and our constant commitment to ensure that our people are resilient in the face of our challenges and that we can take advantage of the possibilities and opportunities of a collaborative Greater Virgin Islands,” Bryan said.
During the meeting the Council discussed tourism strategies and the potential for regional collaboration on tourism marketing, airport and seaport development, interterritorial cooperation between charter yacht companies, border security, fisheries and response to the potential threat of the coronavirus.
Fahie and Bryan serve as co-chairs of the Council, which has 12 standing committees.
The Council’s Committee on Tourism, made up of officials from the USVI Department of Tourism, U.S. Virgin Islands Port Authority and BVI Tourist Board, presented reports on tourism development plans including enhancement projects underway at the Cyril E. King Airport and Red Hook Ferry Terminal on St. Thomas, as well as the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport and Gallows Bay Ferry Terminal on St. Croix. The committee also discussed the potential for joint tourism initiatives.
Representatives of the USVI Marine Council, USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources and officials from the BVI’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture discussed ways to enhance cooperation and communication of policies.
Bryan and Fahie both agreed to assign a representative to lead monthly meetings of the Council’s 12 standing committees for closer coordination toward addressing the shared goals of both territories.
The Inter Virgin Islands Council was established in 2004, when former USVI Gov. Charles Turnbull and Chief Minister D. Orlando Smith signed a joint memorandum of understanding. The Council’s first meeting convened on St. Croix in April 2005.