In response to the recently published article "Tourism's unreturned calls may be costly", I wish to clarify the reasons why the Tourism Department chose not to host the proposed Billfishing Xtreme Release League tournament. Contrary to the accusations of Mike Gautreaux reported in the article, the department made an informed decision not to sponsor this event after inquiring about the costs required to pay for its production. We informed Mr. Gautreaux that we would not accept the offer and would support another less-costly, but excellent option.
Our research showed that although the amount of $40,000 was not requested until the beginning of the new fiscal year, an additional $30,000 would have been necessary to cover all of the proposed first-class airfare, ground transportation, accommodations and daily meals for a crew of 17 people this fiscal year. Moreover, our total investment would have increased, because some of these costs would have to be repeated in 2002 ni order to cover the production of both shows slated to be stretched from 2001 to 2002.
The Tourism Department is keenly aware of the benefits of sponsoring productions that appear on the ESPN network. In fact, we paid for the filming of the two 30-minute programs of the World Billfish Series Tournaments in the USVI last year that were broadcast on ESPN. As a result of coordinating this prior event, we are even more aware of the standard costs and requirements for productions on this network. Given the known cost of investment for exposure and the costs related to the production of Mr. Gautreaux's offer, the Tourism Department decided to pursue other publicity opportunities.
The ESPN show that was filmed last year is continuing to run on the network. Therefore, we did not believe that it was necessary to expend all of our funds for publicity opportunities on one network. Instead, we decided to allocate those funds to the production of the "Travel with Traditions with Burt Wolf" program that will focus on the history and culture of the USVI. This show will be broadcast nationally on PBS and also will be sold in syndication internationally. Burt Wolf is a media personality on the Travel Channel, and many people are familiar with his work. The production was completed within two weeks in July, and the USVI show is expected to air in either October or November of this year. Moreover, the show will focus more on the history, culture and local food, including footage and information for all three islands.
The Tourism Department will not accept every proposal submitted for funding. Each proposal is scrutinized and carefully examined to determine if the exposure provided is the best financial investment for our tourism dollars. We make every effort to respond to every proposal — which we did with the Billfishing Xtreme Tournament — particularly in our attempts to gather information and make a sound and informed decision about how to allocate Tourism funds responsibly.
Pamela C. Richards
Commissioner of Tourism
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