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April 9, 2001 – A move by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to appease private sector tourism interests by creating a Tourism Advisory Committee in lieu of establishing a Tourism Authority has met with rejection by private sector business leaders. The presidents of four business organizations have said their organizations will not be part of Turnbull's advisory committee.
Wendell Snider, president of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, John de Jongh, St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce president, St. Croix Chamber of Commerce President Camelo Rivera and Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association Monday issued a joint press release saying, "Our past experience with tourism advisory committees has not been fruitful or productive. As a consequence we have instructed the executive directors of our four organizations to neither attend nor participate in the Tourism Advisory Committee."
In a release from Government House Thursday, Turnbull had appointed Joseph Aubain and Kevin Jackson, executive directors of the St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix Chambers of Commerce, respectively; Beverly Nicholson and Madeline McCray, executive directors of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association and the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association respectively to his advisory committee.
De Jongh said a tourism advisory committee has "no teeth." It is "non-committal and a very weak handshake towards a true partnership."
Instead de Jongh said, "I am hopeful that at some point we can get the senators and governor together" to discuss a Tourism Authority.
Rivera said, "There was an amazing consensus across the board that we couldn't be part of an advisory board. It hasn't worked in the past and it's not going to work now. If we didn't reject it we would have been giving tacit approval to the idea of an advisory board."
Rivera said the group of business leaders was "on the same page" there was "no debate."
He added the governor had "not consulted with us about appointing the executive directors" to the governor's advisory board.
Turnbull's veto in February of a proposal, part of the mammoth 2001 Omnibus Authorization Act, to set up a semi-autonomous tourism authority to replace the Tourism Department met with the ire of the private sector and several of the senators including Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, who vowed to override Turnbull's veto of the authority.
Sen. Lorraine Berry called the veto politics, pure and simple.
Berry also said the Senate majority's policy agenda recommended revisiting creation of a tourism authority. "Hopefully, this indicates there are enough senators who will see the wisdom of the override."
Also appointed to the advisory commitee last week were Harold Baker, executive director of the V.I. Taxicab Commission; James O’Bryan, Turnbull’s public affairs and policy assistant; Claire Roker, St. Croix district manager for Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen; and Leona Bryant, former assistant commissioner of Economic Development and Agriculture.
No one at Government House could be reached for comment.

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