The St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors would like to thank the local and federal governments, their employees, not-for profit and relief organizations and the private sector for their efforts to assist with the recovery of the territories. Speaking on behalf of the Chamber Board, President Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli stated the following:
We have an extraordinary community of very resilient and amazing human beings, and we will get through this crisis and come out stronger. The private sector and not-for-profit communities have been nothing short of amazing in helping to alleviate the suffering of residents impacted by Irma and Maria.
The recovery process is fluid and ever-changing, which challenges us to continually prioritize the areas that require immediate attention. Let us not forget that our community survived two category five hurricanes within a two-week period. We are now entering a critical phase of the recovery process; one which must begin to focus on our economic survival. The Chamber’s membership feels strongly that there are three key areas that must be immediately addressed: fully repaired and operational airports, port facilities able to receive cargo and cruise ships, and the restoration of power territory-wide.
(Regarding the announcement that ships will return in early November), It is vital for our economic recovery that the cruise ships and their passengers return to the territory and with a full itinerary, which will positively impact employment and generate much needed revenue for individuals, business and the government. However, we have a very short window for the Virgin Islands to be ready to accept cruise guests in order to maintain our position as a premier destination. Guests will be understanding, but only to a certain point.
The many interests of all who cater to our cruise visitors, starting with taxis as well as those taking visitors on excursions, need to be considered along with the appearance of the primary shopping areas, our scenic overlooks, and beaches. This is a situation where the details of all that our visitors will encounter when they come back to our still-recovering shores need to be carefully and minutely considered. Some of the problem spots can be easily identified, which we have noted below, others will take the input of all involved, and the Chamber’s board and membership stands ready to assist in this vital task. We have much to do and little time, but so much depends on this for all involved that we cannot but work together to make it happen.
The key issue now which stands out is the condition of the heavily trafficked roadways to the most popular tourist destinations, as well as key roadways for residents; most notably with the downed power lines, and also the roadside debris. Our specific recommendations for immediate action are as follows:
- The sunken dry dock at Crown Bay must be removed to insure the Oasis Class ships can dock safely, which is currently being addressed.
- Skyline – Remove all overhanging poles, wires and clear debris from route.
- Nadir Bridge – Level the road at the intersection and fill potholes. This roadway impacts all traffic on the east end.
- Red Hook to Sapphire – Clear debris from road. If we can clear this area we will be able to operate the majority of the island/beach excursions.
- Work with the National Park to clear roads to Trunk Bay and the beach. St. John is essential to the visitor experience.
- Emancipation Park, Back Street, Main Street, and the waterfront — all these areas need to be washed down by the Fire Department to ensure clean conditions.
- Continuation of the Magens Bay restoration effort. We deeply thank the private sector and national guard for their efforts thus far.
We recognize and applaud all the sincere and successful efforts that have been made, and continue to be put forth by so many in our community. We are well on our way, but also look forward to further accomplishments with these critical points of concern. As all will agree, the revival of our economy is paramount.
Editor’s note: Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli is the president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce.