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Monday, April 15, 2024


The territory's chambers of commerce and hoteliers showed unprecedented courage when they refused to be part of a watered-down, no-teeth Tourism Advisory Committee. Such advisory groups have accomplished little in the past, and there is no reason to think this one will be different. That’s why the governor’s own five-year plan recommends a semi-autonomous Tourism Authority with the power to run the territory’s tourism operation.
The private businesses in the Virgin Islands are on the front lines every day dealing with the ebb and flow of our tourist traffic — which is not to say our public-sector tourism employees are not working hard, too. But the private-sector businesses are the first to feel the impact of the tourism flux.
Make no mistake, though; it does eventually trickle down to our government employees, since most of the money to support our government comes from the private sector, and particularly from tourism.
But even if you disagree with the private sector organizations' decision to boycott the Tourism Advisory Committee, there is no justification for the governor's public criticism of them in front of guests.
Which takes us to the behavior of, first, the governor, and then his employees during the tourism symposium a few days ago.
The governor’s decision to lash out at the chambers and the hoteliers in front of our invited guests from the international tourism community was embarrassing and, in our current economy, extremely dangerous. As they say on American Airlines, "We know you have a choice in your travel." Did Gov. Turnbull lose sight of that fact when he chose to air our dirty linen so publicly?
And what could our government's tourism professionals possibly have been thinking when they boycotted and walked out of events during the three-day symposium? Whose decision was it to do that? And what message did they think they were sending to our tourism partners from abroad, on whom we are so dependent?
These travel partners, who came here to find out what we have to offer, "have a choice" in where they send travelers. So, will they recommend a place where the hostility between the public and private sectors is palpable — and has been made to seem worse than it actually is? Or will they suggest that their clients go someplace where everyone is of one accord about how to create and maintain an outstanding tourism product?
Let's face it, we have enough problems in this territory with hostile tourism workers – year after year we hold seminars to teach people how to be nice to our visitors. The last thing we needed was this latest display of that hostile attitude from the people in charge of the government’s tourism efforts.
If it is true that human beings learn by example, then what did we learn this week?

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