This is what Virgin Islands travelers are saying based on a June 2020 Survey.
In early June 2020, White Bay Villas (WBV) surveyed past guests and those familiar with Jost Van Dyke (JVD) to get their input on a variety of issues including what does safe, healthy, responsible and resilient travel look like. We include “responsible” because how and what you do affects others. We added resilient because travel must be sustainable, include low-to-no carbon emissions, utilize clean green energy, and incorporate resource conservation. This must also be part of this discussion.
We received over 500 responses to the survey, which indicates how important this topic is.
Interestingly, a third of respondents think it will be safe to travel back to the Caribbean again this summer, but more (at 46%) think it will be more likely beginning in the fall 2020/winter 2021 season. Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents expect they will travel back to the Virgin Islands in the next 12 months and that makes us optimistic and excited.
We think it’s safe to say that due to COVID-19, travel and tourism will be different going forward. Many feel that JVD in of itself is still a safe place to be and visit. But short of a vaccine to eliminate the fear of travel, there are several components of safe and responsible tourism that today would make a stay on JVD safe. This is what respondents of the survey thought was important:
· Number 1 was staying in separate independent villas versus rooms in a hotel is better and reinforces social distancing. We agree. As many you already know, WBV consists of 19 independent villas ranging in size from 1 bedroom to as many of 5 bedrooms.
· · # 2 was testing everyone before entering the island (e.g. at port customs or airport). We agree that this is especially important, and should consist of screening, temperature readings, and diagnostic testing. Ideally, this should be done at the arrival airport or ferry customs port and maybe with date-stamped proof of clearing to carry with you. Fortunately, the BVI are currently working on this.
· # 3 was having specially trained and certified staff in all aspects of COVID-19 safety and prevention. WBV has done this already. WBV managers attended special training and received certification in May 2020. We will be deep cleaning and sanitizing all units after each guest departure. Guests will have easy access to hand sanitizer and masks.
· # 4 and # 5 are inter-related and include testing every guest onsite before they check-in to the resort, then taking temperature every few days, all with an on-site medical facility. We tend to agree. Testing should ideally be diagnostic. In the future, WBV would like to have an on-premise a medical professional (e.g. doctor or nurse)ideally living onsite.
· · # 6. Many respondents like the idea of WBV being an all-inclusive self-contained resort with a private full-service onsite restaurant and bar. We are almost there. Before the pandemic closed everything, WBV had been building a new on-the-beach White Bay Beach Club as a private club for WBV guests. We expect The Beach Club restaurant and bar to open later this year.
· · Lastly, only a handful (3%) felt that requiring a minimum 14-day quarantine length was practical. We understand that quarantining is important to prevent the spread of the virus, but it may not be realistic for many guests. It is a key component of what the BVI is presently doing with all residents who travel in from outside of the BVI.
One of the concerns of safe, healthy, responsible, and resilient travel is the “last mile”. That is getting from the St. Thomas (STT) or BVI airport to your final destination hotel or WBV. There are land taxis, ferries, water taxis, and shuttles that help you get there, but timely transfers and costs are concerns. And then there are the concerns about social distancing, disinfection of everything you touch, wearing masks across all the personal interactions including clearing local customs and immigration.
We asked respondents how important it would be to you having personalized access to a local transportation concierge service that would handle all aspects of your local travel from the island airport (e.g. STT)and transporting you directly to your White Bay Villa. This service would make all the detailed arrangements, pick you up at the airport, and escort you via land and water taxis to your final destination using our own disinfected vehicles and boat and with specially trained staff. They even assist you through customs and immigration on Jost Van Dyke.
57% of travelers thought that having a personalized local travel concierge service was very or extremely important. The average was 3.4on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is Extremely Important.
We want you to return to JVD and WBV soon. We also want you to feel confident and safe about traveling. In order to make future travel safe, secure, and, healthy, we believe that we all have to work together- You, WBV, the people of the Virgin Islands, the BVI and USVI governments, the airlines, and hundreds of local businesses.