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Senator Russell: St. Croix sees Tourism Authority as good move for island
The disharmony and distrust of the proposed Tourism Authority that is being perpetrated by some leaders of the community and some members of the Democratic Party based on fear of change and loss of jobs is unfounded.
This fear is understandable since with this change some persons presently employed by the Department of Tourism may be transferred and those may not be performing may face other consequences. But for the greater good of the people of the Territory, change in how we manage tourism especially as it relates to St. Croix must occur. Government does not run, build or own hotels, restaurants tours or taxis.
When government fails to properly run portions of the economic, commercial or social entities of the community, we the elected leaders of the Virgin Islands have a responsibility to explore partnerships that can promote the peoples interest in these areas.
Take, for example, the University of the Virgin Islands, the VI Port Authority, VI Water and Power Authority, Vitelco/Innovative Cable, West Indies Company, Public Finance Authority and the Government Employees Retirement System; these are all examples of successful private public partnerships. These entities are not perfect, but have served the people well in managing their respective responsibilities.
The Tourism Department has failed the residents of St. Croix. The evidence is clear. We expanded the airport at the expense of Yellow Cedar residents but the flights have stopped coming to St. Croix. We repaired and expanded the pier in Frederiksted, but the cruise ships have stopped coming to St. Croix. The towns of Frederiksted and Christiansted are being lost to crime, violence, disrepair and unsavory tenants. Residents and businesses have moved away from what used to be centers of thriving commerce on St. Croix.
We have allowed Casino gaming to come to St. Croix in the hopes that this will attract hotels; but no hotels have been built in St. Croix for the last seven years.
Tourism in St. Croix is all but dead while other islands such as St. Thomas, St. Martin, St. Kitts, and St. Lucia continue to grow their tourism product by leaps and bounds. We offer the world a beautiful American Caribbean jewel yet we have failed to capitalize on this welcoming aspect.
St. Croix was host to the first Lesser Antilles Jazz Festival and it was a huge success, but again it is gone and forgotten. Now Jazz Festivals are the norm in the Caribbean, and tourists from all over the United States and Europe are flocking to festivals in other Caribbean Islands. Even little Anguilla will be hosting a Jazz Festival this year.
We are destroying our environment with human waste and other garbage because of dysfunctional waste management stations and non-existent recycling plants. The Anguilla Landfill and the regular sewer breakdowns are a constant blight on our beautiful island of St. Croix and still we wonder why St. Croix is dead.
Certain St. Thomian leaders are very adept at stirring up world winds of controversy and distrust, but be aware this is only a ploy to maintain the status quo as it relates to the hierarchy of tourism in the Virgin Islands.
The leaders and even the residents of St. Thomas cannot pretend to dictate how the residents of St. Croix view an issue. Crucians cannot afford to be divided or be without true and committed representation from St. Croix businesspersons and other stakeholders as we are now, under the present Department of Tourism. The present Department of Tourism has been successful in promoting tourism, but that success is evident only and limited to the District of St. Thomas/ St. John – despite the shortcomings of the Virgin Islands Government.
The native, local businesspersons and stakeholders of the private sector in St. Croix have confided in me their support of this new Tourism Authority for all the reasons I have stated above. They want to take the politics out of tourism promotion for St. Croix. They are confident in the abilities of the elected leaders of the Hotel Association and the members of the Chamber of Commerce. They believe that this public private partnership holds the promise of gaining international rewards and recognition for St. Croix.
I stand firm in my support of the Tourism Authority. I keep in mind that anything that is done can be undone or amended. I reaffirm my commitment to the people of St. Croix to help the community breathe new life in the dying economy of St. Croix. A new day is dawning in the Virgin Islands and especially in the island of St. Croix and one ray of sunshine is the new proposed Virgin Islands Tourism Authority.
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