St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association president Richard Doumeng said in a release Friday that local hoteliers were "still reeling from the abrupt departure of Nick Pourzal from Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort earlier this week."
Noting that the association does not customarily remark on management changes of member properties, he added, "Nick has been a part of this community and our industry for a very long time, and we feel that a statement is warranted."
Pourzal was abruptly removed as executive vice president and managing director at the Reef on Monday by officials of Prime Hospitality Inc., which owns the property and is negotiating to sell it.
Association Executive director Beverly Nicholson said Pourzal "has been a cornerstone in our tourism industry for a long time. You don't loose a cornerstone and not shake the foundation."
Doumeng's father, Dick Doumeng, who like Pourzal has served several terms as president of the hotel association, noted they have been colleagues for more than 20 years.
"I sincerely hope that our destination doesn't lose the expertise and knowledge that he possesses," the elder Doumeng said.
The release noted that Pourzal took a leadership role in the hospitality industry's recovery after Hurricane Hugo and the failure of Eastern Airlines and a major tour operator, FlyFare Vacations a decade ago.
At the most recent association meeting, Nicholson said, he urged its leaders to develop incentives to motivate Virgin Islanders to become small hotel and inn owners.
"It is critical that natives are partakers of all the benefits of tourism in the community," he was quoted as saying.