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Monday, February 6, 2023


Sept. 19, 2001 – Hire a transportation expert so the Virgin Islands gets a share of the $24 billion aid package requested by airlines that suffered catastrophic financial losses related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That's Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen's suggestion.
She envisions the money being used to subsidize airfares for visitors to the territory. Once they arrived, she said, their spending would help keep the territory's hospitality businesses afloat.
"The airfare price will be so tempting that people will take the opportunity to relax their minds in another part of America where they can be safe," the veteran St. Croix legislator said Wednesday.
Hansen, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, also is calling for money to advertise the territory as a tourism destination now. She declined to specify a funding source, saying only that she will unveil her plan Thursday, when her committee meets for what is scheduled to be its final work on the administration's Fiscal Year 2002 budget.
"If we do what we have to do, there will be no downturn in the economy," she predicted.
As part of the move to bring tourists here for the near future, she is calling for an advertising campaign in nearby Puerto Rico. Additionally, she wants subsidies for Seaborne Airlines to run flights from San Juan and to persuade Boston Harbor Cruises to start its high-speed ferry service between St. Thomas and St. Croix in the next few weeks, rather than in December as is now planned.
In a release circulated from her office late Tuesday night, Hansen announced that she was sponsoring legislation for the Virgin Islands to donate $10 million from the General Fund, or $5 million each from the Transportation Trust Fund and the Land Bank Fund, "to be employed to benefit the families of those who succumbed in the tragic act." She described her plan as "a symbolic gesture."
On Wednesday, Hansen suggested that the $10 million donation would garner the territory good publicity. She also said that V.I. residents should add $1 each to the kitty. "When the dust settles, the mayor of New York will be telling people to have their conventions here," she predicted.
Meantime, she said, she is pushing for the creation of a V.I. tourism authority. She said she has a bill in the works, using the Hawaii Tourism Authority as a blueprint and drawing on work done on a bill creating an authority that the 23rd Legislature approved in its final hours last December. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull subsequently vetoed that measure, objecting to the private sector having majority representation, and the 24th Legislature failed to achieve an override.
Hansen said the idea of a tourism authority is gaining support among her colleagues. "We getting the senators one by one," she said.
She said the authority would have experts on board, not political appointees. And if the members saw the need for tourism-related legislation, they could propose what would work best, rather than kowtowing to the administration's policies.
Hansen repeated her pledge to use 100 percent of the money generated from the territory's 8 percent hotel occupancy tax for advertising. The hotel tax is the sole source of revenues for the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund. Historically, the fund has been tapped for other purposes as well, including annual appropriations for the territory's three carnival celebrations.
"I'm trying my best to correct this, and I'll try to appropriate additional money," she said. She is proposing that money to fund V.I. Carnival, the Crucian Christmas Festival and the St. John Festival come from Anti-litter and Beautification Commission funds, rather than from the tourism advertising fund.
Hansen also called for stepping up efforts to proceed with capital improvement projects that are already funded. "They're moving like snails," she said.
She said the construction projects would provide work for people who might lose their jobs if the hospitality industry suffers a downturn as predicted.

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