In 1950, coincidentally when tourism began to take hold of these isles of fun and sun, the following was noted in a VI Daily News Editorial about the merits and advantages of semi- autonomous boards and authorities, entitled "Keep The Politics Out:"
"…….The expressed purpose is setting up the boards and commissions to keep them away from the political procedure that may harbor incompetence and inefficiency. That is being accomplished to the satisfaction of the people. This has been brought about because the workers of the Authority are responsible to the man in charge and the influence of politics is kept at a minimum……..
…….The wisdom of agencies retaining nonpolitical control …….is borne out of when the Governor tried to move heaven and earth to have an incompetent friend head the organization. It did not happen because the Authority showed him that he hadn't the appointing power…….
……..If this government is to be efficient and retain the respect of the governed, it must hold to principles and not try to please everybody who can worm their way into the hearts of the politicians when they are aggrieved……We hope the Council and the Governor will see the light before it is too late."
If this government is serious about tourism, it is high time that these very same words are heeded and applied to the running of a well-oiled economic machine.
Our deteriorating tourism organization is suffering from the serious cancer of political favor. More than ever the result is obvious: a ghastly image, blemishing daily; gross incompetence and inefficiency. After all, recent history would make us believe that a job at tourism is the plum, the glamour — so they think.
It does not take a rocket scientist or an Alan Greenspan to see the merits of establishing a semi-autonomous agency. They are staring us in the face. The only part that is baffling, is why after scoreless innings do we not revamp things. When are we going to learn?
Well, here's a recommended plan on tourism:
Develop and control product quality
Get savvy, market-wise
The current Department of Tourism will become the U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism Authority, a semi-autonomous agency of the government operated as a business much like the West Indian Company, and Port Authority both of whom generate income.
This means of managing tourism is very successful in other destinations across the world, including Hawaii, Australia, and our closest competitors Aruba and Puerto Rico. The latter two are excellent models.
Like it or not, Tourism is the business of the Virgin Islands. Like any business, it is high time it is operated as a corporation. Outside meddling by those with self-serving agendas has to stop. No more lab technicians-turned-Carnival mas' men-turned-politicians who worm themselves into a cushy "star" job.
The key advantage to VITA will be gross de-politicizing of the operation and management of our lifeblood.
VITA will be guided by a board of directors comprised of qualified local and international tourism leaders, including hoteliers, tour operators, storekeepers, marketers, event specialists, creatives, economists, business persons and government officials.
The structure and day-to-day operations flow chart will closely resemble that of any successful multifaceted corporation:
Chairman / Chief Executive Officer
President or Executive Director
Vice-Presidents and Directors heading such departments and disciplines as:
Product Development and quality control
Sales & Marketing
Communications (pr, etc.)
Special Events & Promotions
Conventions and Meetings
Film, Tv and Commercial Promotion
Cultural Affairs & Promotion
Business (tourism) Development
Research and Analysis
The sales and marketing of the destination is another story and one of big fat trimming. Stay tuned.
Editors' note: Steve Bornn, who is well-versed in travel and leisure industry, heads an events marketing and production firm. He has free-lanced for several publications.