Hi Genderbuzz women, my name’s Joyce Kinniburgh and I own BVI Holidays Ltd – the only specialist travel company to the glorious British Virgin Islands worldwide. For the most part, I LOVE my job, hleping people to plan and arrange their dream holiday to one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but, during 2017, I had to fall back on all my business resilience to literally weather the storms that devastated the BVI and potentially my business. Here is my story:
September 2017- In the eye of the Storm
When Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through the British Virgin Islands on 6th September 2017, nobody could have envisaged the massive destruction caused or the ensuing aftermath. At times the winds were so strong they were literally ripping the tarmac from the roads.Some of the BV Islanders lost everything – their homes, their businesses, and their personal belongings.
When I saw footage of what had once been the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, I cried. My first of many visits there was in 1989 and it is the most unique hotel I have ever visited. Thatched cottages linked by wooden walkways overlooking a mile-long white sand beach and the most stunning views imaginable. Completely destroyed by our unwelcome “visitors”. Paradise was reduced to driftwood.
Facing down the aftermath with grit and determination
When faced with clearing up almost total devastation what did the BVI community do, did they throw in the towel, sit down and cry, leave and try to start a new life somewhere else? No, these resilient people did none of these things. With the initial assistance of our wonderful marines and true grit and determination, they got on with the job of rebuilding the infrastructure of the BVI and doing their utmost to restore their beautiful islands to their former glory.
What did I do? I will be perfectly honest with you – I was worried. For weeks and months, I had no enquiries whatsoever and the future was not looking good. However, I also have grit and determination and I am very aware that the BVI needs the tourists back; next to Banking, Tourism is the main industry in the British Virgin Islands. From a selfish point of view – I also need people to start booking again. Bills still have to be paid!
Several properties will not be available for holidays until 2019, however, I decided to work with what was available and focus on promoting the sailing, which was back up and running very quickly – sailboats, motor yachts and crewed yachts. The island of Anegada was left almost unscathed by the hurricanes and the three properties there with which I work – two hotels and a great beach restaurant with beachfront villas – all re-opened last November.
On some of the other islands, we have several beautiful villas which escaped damage and some of the hotels are due to open in the coming months.
What’s next for me and the British Virgin Islands?
The upside is that some of the beaches (if this is possible!) are even better than before. The greenery and tropical flowers are coming back and will grow very quickly. The flowers in the tropics grow like our weeds do in the U.K.!
Since the hurricanes struck, I have been e-mailing my client database regularly to keep everyone updated on the progress throughout the islands and to assure them that things are slowly but surely returning to normal and of course to remind them that our business, BVI Holidays is THE company to book with as we are fully up to speed with what’s happening there.
One good thing that came out of Irma and Maria, is that now – everyone knows where the British Virgin Islands are and I no longer expect to receive calls from people asking “where are the BVI?” From my experience in 2017, I realised that the secret to a successful business with staying power, is to be positive and concentrate on what you do have, not what you don’t have.