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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Tourism Commissioner Defends FY 2011 Budget

With all the attention given this week to Monday’s deadly shooting at Coki Point Beach, the topic was not really the focus Thursday during the first round of budget hearings at the Senate, which featured a full compliment of Tourism Department officials.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty did say, however, that her team has spent the last few days meeting with its local and regional partners, interviewing with media and preparing for a meeting Friday with the cruise lines facilitated by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.
Senators’ questions about the incident — in which two teenagers were shot to death, including a local male and a 14-year-old female tourist — were limited in apparent anticipation of Friday’s meeting, but some, such as Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve, wondered what the department’s strategy was for businesses that are being affected by the drop in tourism at Coki.
Among those mentioned was Coral World, whose owner has long campaigned for the government to clean up the area by addressing everything from crime to out-of-control barkers and is now seeing a pull back in visitors.
Nicholson-Doty said moving forward, businesses such as Coral World would be folded into the department’s advertising efforts, which she said is meant to encourage visitors not only to come to the territory, but to spend money as well.
Other than that, Nicholson-Doty stuck mainly to the budget during Thursday’s Budget and Appropriations meeting, defending the government’s FY 2011 recommendation of $3.4 million from the General Fund — nearly $320,000 less than what was requested for FY 2010.
Of the proposed amount, a little more than $2 million will be put toward personnel costs, while $659,111 is budgeted for associated fringe benefits. Another $10,000 is set aside for capital outlays, $7,589 for supplies, $572,292 for other services and charges, and $110,000 for utilities.
Tourism is also expected to get $650,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund for local carnivals and festivals, which includes $75,000 for the St. John Carnival, $275,000 for the Crucian Christmas Festival and $300,000 for the V.I. Carnival.
Nicholson-Doty also spoke about trends in the travel industry, which she said has been challenged by the ongoing recession. In 2009, the territory saw a 2.5 percent decline in overnight visitors, compared to 3.5 percent for the rest of the Caribbean, while local cruise arrivals were down 9.9 percent — a sharp drop when compared to the rest of the Caribbean region, which saw a 1.4 percent increase because of new development in the western Caribbean.
"Comparatively, we have maintained market share better than many of our neighbors," she said. "However, we must remain cognizant of industry trends which may still have an impact on our overall economic recovery."
Present during Thursday’s hearing were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Wayne James, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Sammuel Sanes, Sprauve and Michael Thurland.

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