Dec. 4, 2008 – On behalf of the USVI Department of Tourism I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the St. Croix community for the warm Crucian welcome extended to the passengers and crew of the Oceania Regatta during her inaugural visit to St. Croix last Friday. The gracious reception from taxi drivers, entertainers, vendors, business owners, tour operators and citizens was truly energizing. I am thankful for the community's faith and trust in our product and for the efforts of our sister government agencies to help ready the island for the ship's arrival. My gratitude also goes to the many local businesses, community organizations and concerned citizens who assisted us in identifying and promoting the unique qualities of St. Croix. Thank you all for your role in making this first call of the season a success.
This first call is momentous, not only because it marks the return of regularly scheduled cruise visits to St. Croix, but also because it sends a clear message to the cruise lines that St. Croix is ready and open for business. Furthermore, this first call symbolizes a new opportunity for all of us to showcase St. Croix as rich in history, culture, natural beauty, talented and hospitable people, yet distinctly different from other ports of call.
After months of soliciting input and feedback from the community and the industry on how to best promote St. Croix, the Department of Tourism carefully tested branding concepts with potential visitors in our key markets to identify the most effective message to drive tourism to St. Croix. In July, the Department of Tourism presented the new St. Croix-specific branding to cruise and travel executives in Miami. Rebranded as "St. Croix – Your Port of Solace" we positioned St. Croix as a place where visitors would find comfort and escape from the stresses of their daily lives; an island where instead of crowds guests would find character, culture and charm. The new branding differentiates the island from other busy Caribbean cruise ports while appealing to the growing number of travelers seeking a more authentic and peaceful vacation experience. The brand idea was embraced wholeheartedly by the cruise and travel trade as a unique positioning for marketing St. Croix. Now that the ships have returned it is incumbent on all of us to deliver on the promise of a St. Croix that is all of these things – comforting, charming, hospitable, authentic, cultural and unique.
To help ensure we would deliver on the brand promise, the Department of Tourism and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) hosted the Preparing the Path conference on St. Croix in August aimed at preparing the community for the return of the cruise industry. At the conference, attended by nearly 200 participants, we unveiled the "St. Croix – Your Port of Solace" branding and conducted workshops on delivering excellent customer service, developing unique tours, marketing native arts and crafts, agritourism, and entrepreneurship. Based on interest and positive feedback from the conference, in November the Department of Tourism and the EDA sponsored an additional two days of customer service training in anticipation of the return of cruise ships. I wish to thank all who participated in these events for your commitment to professional development and for recognizing the importance of providing exceptional customer service in ensuring the long-term success of tourism in St. Croix.
In the weeks and months ahead you will see and hear our local awareness campaign themed, "St. Croix It's our Time to Shine." The campaign emphasizes community pride, island hospitality and the importance of sharing our culture. In January we also look forward to introducing a cultural brochure for St. Croix highlighting the talents of our local culture bearers and the wealth of cultural opportunities available to visitors. The brochure will be distributed to cruise passengers, hotel guests and to our travel industry partners at trade shows both nationally and internationally. Additionally, in January the Department of Tourism will launch a redesigned website with comprehensive information about the destination including direct links to the websites of tourism-related businesses and cultural organizations.
Under the guidance of Governor de Jongh, the Department of Tourism remains committed to working with the cruise lines to secure additional calls for 2009 and 2010. We will continue to work hand in hand with our sister government agencies to make certain we address the areas needing improvement. We acknowledge there is still work to be done, and appreciate your thoughts and ideas on how we can improve the visitor experience. Feel free to share your ideas at www.usvi-ideas.com
As we approach the end of the year, I would like to take a moment to say "Thank You" to everyone and to wish all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009.
Beverly Nicholson Doty
USVI Department of Tourism
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Editor's note: Beverly Nicholson Doty serves as Commissioner of Tourism for the United States Virgin Islands, a cabinet-level position. She oversees the Department of Tourism's advertising and marketing plans, its national and international tourism-related efforts and product development.