On Monday, Tomas Dardet and nearly 20 of his friends and family members toured The Baths in Virgin Gorda, climbing in and out of the rock pools and exploring the grottoes.
Although the popular tourist attraction was crowded, the Puerto Rican felt right at home.
“Everybody was speaking Spanish,” he said with a laugh. “We did the whole tour. And it was full of Puerto Ricans everywhere. We were the only people buying at the concessionary store down by the beach where they sell hamburgers and hotdogs to the charters. It was just Puerto Ricans.”
They had come to the territory for the annual Christmas in July celebration. The main event — in Pond Bay, Virgin Gorda on Saturday — smashed attendance records, with more than 400 boats and over 4,000 attendees total, according to Mr. Dardet, the BVI Tourist Board representative in Puerto Rico who works to promote the event.
The high numbers weren’t surprising, he said.
The so-called “Puerto Rican Navy” — a group of boaters who for years have arrived on VI shores near the end of the tourist season, giving the industry a needed boost — couldn’t wait to get back after two years of cancellations, Mr. Dardet explained.
For businesses still struggling to get back on their feet after border closures, restrictions and dismal arrival numbers, that boost is more important than ever.
“We believe that it’s an investment that helps several sectors,” Mr. Dardet explained, adding that the charter industry is a major beneficiary. “All businesses have their slow seasons, their low season in the summer. And this event, even though you get a lot of people with boats coming over, you get a lot of people without boats coming and renting boats. So that is an important sector that we believe is