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Monday, January 30, 2023



Oct. 1, 2001 – Faced with a massive drop-off in overnight tourism traffic since the terrorist attacks on the mainland, what the territory needs to do now is "plan and not panic," Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards said Monday.
"Obviously, we are negatively impacted, but we need to plan," she said. "It's not just the Virgin Islands; it's a global problem."
Richards said she is meeting in the territory on Monday and Tuesday with representatives of Ogilvy & Mather/Atlanta and Martin Public Relations, the government's mainland advertising and public relations agencies. She said she plans to hold a press conference on Wednesday to present the department's campaign to combat the tourism slump.
Meantime, she outlined what she said are several projects the Tourism Department is implementing to combat the territory's steadily worsening economy in the wake of the attacks.
At a Port Authority board meeting Friday, Richards, who as Tourism commissioner chairs the board, persuaded the body to contribute $1 million to jump start V.I. promotion efforts.
She said the money and $2 million from the Tourism Department will be used in a joint effort with the territory's two hotel associations and two chambers of commerce to give free one-week vacations to 500 rescue workers from New York and Washington, D.C. The Tourism Department's contribution will be airline tickets for the workers and a guest for each one, she said, while the business groups will provide complimentary hotel rooms, gift bags and merchant discount coupons.
Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association, announced the initiative, put forth by the business groups, last week but at that time had not secured government funding for the airline tickets. Doumeng and other business leaders have met with government representatives several times since the Sept. 11 attacks to present strategies to lessen the economic impact on the territory of the massive numbers of visitor cancellations.
The free-vacation program is now in effect, although related advertising won't be launched until next week, Richards said. It will run through the end of the year, she said.
At the same time, a program formed to provide similar vacations for survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma federal building bombing attack has been reactivated on St. Croix for immediate family members of victims of the Pentagon attack, Richards said. She said St. Croix CARES ("Caribbean Arms Reaching Every Survivor"), a not-for-profit organization, is offering vacations the weekend of Dec. 7-10 — Dec. 7 is Pearl Harbor day — that include airfare, hotel accommodations and meals. "The restaurant response in the first program was phenomenal," Richards said, and she expects this to hold true again.
Also, for the general public, she said a coming campaign will offer one free airline ticket with each one purchased from anywhere across the country to the Virgin Islands, and 25 percent off V.I. hotel room rates.
Richards also said Delegate Donna Christian Christensen is seeking to have the territory included in an economic relief package the federal government is putting together for the tourism industry. "We're in touch with the delegate on a regular basis," the commissioner said. "We think we qualify for some of that package."
She said the advertising campaign for the 500 vacations for rescue workers will begin with radio spots late next week. She said the spots will closely reflect Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's message to the nation in the wake of the attacks and will be partnered with the American Red Cross. In his message extending condolences to those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks and rescue efforts, Turnbull states, "Although our islands are some 900 miles away from the U.S. mainland, we have always considered ourselves citizens of America."
Turnbull's message is posted on the Tourism Department web site. To view the text, which has been positioned above the standing words of welcome from the governor, click on the "Welcome Center" bar at the lower left of the web site main page.
Richards also said that the advertising that was running before Sept. 11 is continuing. She did not mention print campaigns, and as far as television spots, she said, Tourism personnel are monitoring what's going on. In the case of TV, "We're not sure we're ready yet," she commented.
At Wednesday's press conference, "We'll be discussing something positive for the tourism industry," she said.

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