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Friday, February 23, 2024


April 12, 2001- From taxi drivers to customs inspectors, from perfume sellers to dive instructors, as many as 400 members of the St. Thomas community will be greeting visitors with a different touch – friendlier and more professional – come the middle of May.
That'll be after they graduate from the American Express "Excellence Together" training program scheduled for May 10-15 at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. The program is the brainchild of a hospitality focus group within the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association. It's being presented by the association, the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Department.
Some of the island's hospitality movers and shakers met Wednesday morning at Frenchman's Reef to lay the groundwork for the project. Among them were Carter Donovan, Ritz-Carlton Hotel general manager; Jayne Hillner, Frenchman's Reef general manager; David Yamada, Renaissance Grand Beach Resort general manager; Chantal Richards, Tourism assistant marketing director; Eustace Grant, V.I. Taxi Association president; and Sgt. Annette Raimer, police community relations and public information officer.
American Express will supply the instructor for four identical daylong courses that can each accommodate about 100 participants. Local experts will assist in the training. The graduates will be recognized at a ceremony on May 15.
To drum up customers for the course, focus group members are contacting local owners and managers of airlines, car rental agencies, gift shops, restaurants, yacht brokerages and the like, along with selected government agencies, including health care and education service providers.
What Amex offers is an intense, state-of-the-art course covering customer diplomacy, components of selling, communication in delivering service, and professionalism on the job. The training will also explore the economic, social and cultural impacts tourism has on a community and its people.
At Wednesday's session, Grant expressed reservations about using the word "training" in seeking to persuade taxi drivers to take part in the program. "The instruction will help them increase their income," offered Yamada – an approach Grant seized on at once. Make that a daylong earnings enhancement seminar.
Richards said Tourism is preparing an exit survey to be handed out to departing visitors at the territory's airports, a relatively short form asking them about the quality of their stay. In the Bahamas, she said, filling out such a form is a required part of the departure process. That won't be the case here, she said, but as an incentive to encourage people to fill out the forms, those who do so will get a chance at a drawing for a free return visit to the territory.

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