By Source Staff
USVI delegation attends the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world
The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism is on a dual mission of getting on the radar of Canadian travelers while also attracting more film productions to the territory.
While attending the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last week with a team from his department as well as the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte addressed more than 40 journalists last Thursday to provide an update on the USVI’s tourism product, signaling the territory’s return to the Canadian market.
“Our new tourism vision includes elevating our presence in markets which hold tremendous potential, and we believe Canada – from Toronto to Montreal and Vancouver – is critically important,” said Boschulte.
Heartened by the strong interest in the USVI for both stayover and cruise visits, the tourism chief said part and parcel of the department’s strategy is to work with its neighbors in the British Virgin Islands to secure nonstop flights from Toronto. “Before long, we will be featuring some of the newest and most modern accommodations in the Caribbean, and we need to ensure that our aerial highways from international gateways are as strong as our domestic airlift,” he said.
Luana Wheatley, the department’s film director, said that coupled with some attractive incentives, the U.S. Virgin Islands provides diverse experiences for productions — whether feature films, television programming, documentaries or music videos — highlighting the work ethic of local talent, whose experience rivals industry experts in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.
“Think exotic yet American with vistas that mirror Greek hillsides, rural South Africa, pastoral Vietnam, picturesque Portugal, coastal Mexico and so much more. In addition to the main islands of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island, our uninhabited out islands offer yet another set of unique ‘blank-slate’ locations,” said Wheatley, who underscored that strong infrastructure and support services combine to contribute to the success of any production.
As part of its film development strategy, the Department of Tourism and the Economic Development Authority partnered with CaribbeanTales to co-present “The Big Pitch” TIFF Breakfast and REDHOT Mixer events on Sunday.
At the breakfast, CaribbeanTales incubator participants pitched their projects to a room full of industry insiders as the talent and creative ingenuity of international filmmakers were explored. This was followed by the REDHOT Mixer, CaribbeanTales’ annual TIFF networking event where a diverse audience of industry insiders sought opportunities to connect with talent and community.
This Friday, during CaribbeanTales’ Environmental Night, V.I. author and filmmaker Peter Bailey will present “Paradise Discovered: The Unbreakable Virgin Islanders,” a film based on surviving Hurricanes Irma and Maria on his native St. Thomas.
Last week, Commissioner Boschulte continued his media rounds, interviewing with Alicia Wright-DaCosta of G98.7 FM, which features an urban adult contemporary radio format in Toronto. He also updated the viewers of CP24, Toronto’s breaking news television channel.