Feb. 8, 2004 — A new era in the history of Crucian tourism has begun. Heritage and nature tourism, believed by many to be the fastest growing component in the tourism industry, is rapidly gaining interest among individuals, groups and organizations on St. Croix. At the forefront is the newly created nonprofit organization, CHANT, which stands for Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism. In existence since October 2003, the group made a presentation on Friday and revealed its first "service provider:" St. Croix by Horse.
Many in the tourism industry have stated that St. Croix has not distinguished itself from the hundreds of other Caribbean islands offering sun, sand and sea. CHANT seeks to highlight the natural beauty and historical treasures of St. Croix by offering multiday tourism packages. In addition to excursions to historical sites such as the Bethlehem Sugar Factory and Whim Greathouse, CHANT will offer kayaking, snorkeling and diving, native culinary workshops, horse back trail riding, and hiking through the waterfalls. The excursions of three to 10 days will be tailored to meet the interests of the traveler. This will be accomplished by linking existing small businesses into a circle of organized tourism package providers.
St. Croix by Horse was developed by four young businessmen who have years of experience in horse care, training and trail riding. For several years they have been offering nature trail rides that also provide interesting facts about the flora and fauna and the island's historical ruins. Headed by Rodney Ceasar, better known as "Ras Turtle," the group leads scenic panoramic excursions through historic sugar mill factories, former slave quarters and lush floral gardens. They bring the culture of St. Croix to life by passing on historical facts to the tour group.
According to CHANT board member Onaje Jackson, the group is operating on a three-year challenge grant from a private source. A three-year strategic plan is in place to help CHANT accomplish its goals.
The group will conduct excursions to St. Croix in conjunction with existing annual events such as the Agricultural and Food Fair, using an event as a launching point for visitors to enjoy a unique St. Croix experience. Jackson explained that tourists might enjoy a few days at the fair combined with other activities such as nature hikes, deep sea diving, sailing and horseback riding. "The top tour organizations are extremely excited about this project," said Jackson. The group has been in contact with Alken Tours, a firm that specializes in Caribbean and African tours with a special emphasis on "lesser known" places of interest.
"We are sitting on one of the most profitable and brilliant projects, tailor-made for the emerging market," said Jackson, adding, "with the globalization of U.S. culture, St. Croix can distinguish itself by offering tourists our centuries of time-honored traditions. Tourists can experience the era of slavery from the colonial view of the planters and the historical view of the workers."
The project will enable local businesses to grow by including their product as a part of the tour package. We are touching our community from the ground up, explained Jackson. "We will be working with any other service providers and are encouraging people to come to us and tell us about their special project."
The organization has scheduled several events. CHANT's executive director, Oceana James, outlined the monthly calendar:
March: "Mokolution" — Moko jumbies from Africa to the Caribbean will depict the movement of the art form from west Africa to the Caribbean and its evolution.
April: Poet laureate selection. Plans are in the works to determine the method of choosing a poet laureate.
May: Moonlight hike led by Ras Lumba of Aye Aye Eco Tours. Includes a picnic, storytelling and native music.
Other annual events will include a Kallaloo cook-off, donkey races and Roast Fish and Tinnin', where fish is roasted on sheets of galvanized tin.
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