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V.I. Tourism Gets Breath of Fresh Air

May 15, 2007 — Upbeat, enthusiastic and excited would describe the atmosphere at the 14th annual USVI Destination symposium, which was held Tuesday at Frenchman’s Reef Marriott.
“Do you know what that is in the air?” asked Rik Blyth. “That is the smell of fresh air.”
Blyth is president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association and acted as emcee for the symposium. He said that that there was a whole new feel to the event, primarily because, “We are encouraged by the vision of our new administration and hope to be a partner in many programs designed to improve and promote our tourism product.”
That feeling was held by many of the 150 attendees who warmly applauded Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who said of the association, “They have spearheaded this remarkable event from its inception and continue to make a significant contribution to the growth of our tourism product and within the travel industry.”
Entering wearing a captain’s hat, Nicholson-Doty charmed the audience as she described vigorous plans for marketing the territory on local, national and international levels. As a part of the demonstration, radio and television spots that have already played in national markets to almost 200 million listeners were presented to the audience.
Under the theme of “USVI Takes Flight,” Nicholson-Doty presented 10 points that the department would be focusing on, including increased collaboration between the public and private sectors, website redesign, community involvement and enhanced arrival experiences for visitors.
As leases expire in the coming months, the commissioner said that they would be moving to “virtual offices," instead of brick and mortar, which would free up personnel to become a more effective sales team.
Nicholson-Doty said that there would be an aggressive push to market to specific niche demographics, such as scuba divers, weddings, romance related and African-Americans.
“We will be reviewing the markets with the highest potential for return on investment,” Nicholson-Doty said. “We will be committing resources towards those markets.”
She said that "babymooners" will be encouraged to come to the Virgin Islands as their last fling before the baby arrives and as the first place after the baby is born.
The commissioner finished her portion of the program by saying, “The Department of Tourism has no commodities. Our success is your success, and together we will succeed.”
Brad Laney from M. Booth and Associates and Sebastian Benjamin from J. Walter Thompson made their own presentation and indicated that later in the week two major announcements would be made, one of which was a partnership with a major Internet brand, which will provide $1.2 million in marketing support.
They emphasized that the “No passport required” campaign had been effective and would continue for another year. One selling point for travel to the territory is, unlike most other destinations in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands is a U.S. territory and no passport is needed for entrance.
Benjamin said that they would be able to readily determine the effectiveness of various marketing strategies and adjustments could and would be made.
Laney indicated that a part of the strategy was to have a unified look in promotion campaigns.
The morning had other presentations featuring the territory’s activities and attractions, including golf, eco-tours, sailing, scuba, beaches and resorts.
Following the morning presentations and before leaving to enjoy some of the activities and attractions, the attendees broke off into round-table discussions to share ideas about various subjects, including attracting international and luxury travelers, strategies for Internet marketing, all-inclusive versus traditional resorts, and timeshares.
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