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HomeNewsArchives$20 MILLION ISN'T TOO MUCH FOR WHAT WE'LL GET

$20 MILLION ISN'T TOO MUCH FOR WHAT WE'LL GET

As the territory's — and particularly St. Croix's — tourism industry plods painfully along, the impression is that every other Caribbean destination is booming.
While some are, some aren't. So that makes it especially important to rally around Tourism Commissioner-designate Michael Bornn's effort to drum up $20 million to market the territory.
We must create demand before those destinations that are doing well siphon off more of our potential visitors, and before those others that are not doing well regain their strength.
On Bermuda, hotel room capacity is at an all-time low. According to that island's hotel association, since 1983 at least 17 properties have closed their doors, reducing the number of available beds to 3,100 from around 4,600. With renovation of one of the island's resorts set for later this year, another 200 beds will be lost.
But don't feel sorry for Bermuda. It spends around $14 million a year in tourism advertising.
Closer to home, St. Lucia is in the same predicament as the Virgin Islands: Not enough is being spent on marketing. In June, the island saw a 20 percent decline in visitors from the dominant U.S. market.
St. Lucia's private and public sectors coughed up about $1.5 million to get American Airlines to provide daily direct service from Miami last year. The venture wasn't renewed, because hoteliers balked at the cost/benefit ratio.
Now a former director of St. Lucia's tourism office is saying that the problem lies in the marketing. He says the $4.8 million now allocated to the island's Tourist Board isn't enough. In fact, it's the same amount that was allocated 10 years ago when he was in charge!
On the flip side, Barbados is pouring money into its tourism product — and seeing a return. Last year the country began a $70 million upgrade of its airport. Just recently it announced the allocation of more than $3 million to rehabilitate its tourism infrastructure. That's on top of the $5.5 million it spends each year on advertising. . . in the United States alone.
What has Barbados gotten back in return for these investments? The island's Tourism Authority expects a 20 percent increase in American visitors this summer. And guess what? There's talk of spending more money on advertising.
Then there is the awakening giant — Cuba. Tourism, now one of the country's major sources of hard currency, is booming. The number of visitors this year is up 23 percent over a year earlier.
What is the Virgin Islands doing? Well, with work on the $16 million runway extension at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport about to begin, we are making something of an investment in our tourism infrastructure. And, also on St. Croix, there is the imminent rebirth of the Divi resort and the opening of its new casino.
But much more is needed. Starting with Michael Bornn's $20 million for marketing it all.

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