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V.I. TO HOST TOURISM CONFERENCE FOR FIRST TIME

July 21, 2003 – The 26th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference of the Caribbean Tourism Organization is scheduled to take place on St. Thomas on Oct. 13-19, and the government's mainland publicity agency, Martin Public Relations, is promoting the venue to potential attendees.
This will be the first time that the Virgin Islands has hosted the conference.
"Influential travel industry leaders, journalists and hundreds of travel agents will attend this annual conference, which brings together the Caribbean's leading tourism officials to discuss relevant issues that affect the travel industry," a release states.
"Accessible from all major Caribbean islands, as well as major U.S. cities, the U.S. Virgin Islands is the perfect Caribbean destination for this important tourism event," it states. "Several major airlines offer direct flights to St. Thomas. Island hopping from St. Thomas to St. Croix and St. John is a short ferry ride or seaplane flight away. Other Caribbean-based commuter airlines offer inter-island transportation in the region."
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards was elected CTO first vice chair at the 25th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference in the Bahamas last fall and also chairs the CTO's Air Transportation Services Committee.
"I am excited about the opportunity to host this year's conference," Richards said of the meeting which will take place at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. "This is a critical time in the history of the travel and tourism industry, and our decisions will be crucial to determining how the Caribbean will fare in the global marketplace."
The membership of the Barbados-based CTO comprises Caribbean governments and private sector entities including airlines, cruise lines and the Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Hotel Association. The release notes that St. Thomas and Frenchman's Reef "in the late 1970s both played a significant role in meetings that led to the creation of the existing CTO, which resulted from the merger of two former tourism organizations."
Touting the Reef's "408 air-conditioned rooms, five restaurants, spa and fitness services, a freshwater pool, watersports, tennis courts, several retail shops and easy access to the Caribbean's best duty-free shopping," it adds: "Local tour operators, restaurants and hotels also will have the opportunity to showcase their best offerings to visitors participating in CTC-26."
In May, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull stated that he was pleased with Richards' "progress in revitalizing our tourism promotion and her ability to successfully keep the U.S. Virgin Islands in the forefront nationally and internationally as the Caribbean destination of choice." He said that "during this time of local and national economic hardship," Richards has been "able to maintain the territory's leadership role in the Caribbean region."
According to an earlier Martin P.R. release, Richards upon her election as CTO vice chair said that she would provide guidance in developing strategies to enhance relationships with the CTO's airline partners. "Expanding airlift to the region and strengthening our existing relationships with airline carriers have always been a part of our tourism strategies for the U.S. Virgin Islands," she said.

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