As a store promoter on the streets of St Thomas for almost 12 years, and having worked for one store for almost 9 years, I feel I have something to say about the current decision to limit the "barkers" in Charlotte Amalie. The first thing I would like to say is that after working downtown for so long I have many opinions. Now you are making a big change for the locals as well as the tourists. I hope that you will do more than just "clean up" the "barker" situation. I hope that you will improve the accessibility for people in wheelchairs! There is much that needs cleaning up in town, the physical street being one of them. Let's get some more trash receptacles out there. When there are 10,000 tourists in town do you think that 7 or 8 trashcans are enough?? And why not get a couple of trustees from the local jail to dump the ones there are twice a day? Just a small roll-around bin to get the cans emptied would do the trick. And what about rest rooms in town for 10,000 people, who are drinking water, sodas and beer as they walk in and out of the stores?
What is needed is a guide, printed by a disinterested party, which shows where the rest rooms are and how many toilets in each. This guide should also show all the historic locations to visit, and operating hours if they have them. These should be provided free as the people descend from the ships and they should be available to hotels also. There are enough advertisements for businesses that are out for profit, but for information that is of interest to people who are either finished shopping or who don't care to at all, such a guide would be greatly beneficial. Of all the questions I was asked in all of my years, the most common was, "Where is the nearest bathroom?" My next suggestion will upset a lot of people. While you are "cleaning up," why not change the taxi/safari system to a first come, first served system? Eliminate the annoying, "Back to the ship" chatter! And while you are changing things in town what about a lovely pedestrian mall like they have in so many cities that cater to tourists? Benches under shade trees (in pots for hurricane season similar to the ones on the apron), perhaps a fountain or statues could do much to beautify the downtown area. And like they have "adopt a highway" in the States you could have "adopt Main Street for a month" for its upkeep. Another thing for weary tourists would be an inside air-conditioned locale. Perhaps with snacks available supported by a local not-for-profit organization; Humane Society, Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Rotary are just some which come to mind.
Next, are the hotel guests getting preferential treatment? They are the ones who spend more money per capita, so why not give them some time to shop when they are not competing with the ship passengers? Perhaps Friday and Saturday evenings would be a nice gesture to make them feel special. In my years I never heard a tourist say much about the evening life except when it comes to eating or drinking. There is a beautiful park, Emancipation Gardens, where there could be local entertainment. Schools could have one weekend per month to perform or have special events to show off the finer aspects of St Thomas. Make this next year one that will go down in the history of the island as one where real positive changes are made to the benefit of all, locals and guests, alike. Taking care of the tourists should be of prime concern for those who can help to make these changes. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money and it will come back in the end. You have to give in order to get.
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to email@example.com.