The Port of Charlotte Amalie has a long maritime history alongside our tourism product, both of which have played a huge part in the economic welfare and prosperity of St. Thomas in the past. But we are now an island that is no longer competing with a just a couple of the islands in the Caribbean, but we are competing with the entire Caribbean basin and possibly with Cuba in the very near future. Many of our guests who used to frequent the U.S. Virgin Islands are now being attracted to other destinations in the Caribbean.
Since the hurricanes last year, our inventory of hotel rooms has diminished and air traffic is subsequently down, the shortage of inventory of hotel rooms on island has been damaging to our economy.
It is time that this new hotel is built. It will not only boost the overall tourism on St. Thomas but this 110 to 125-room hotel will help to create new jobs. It is well known fact that overnight guests spend more money on the island, helping all facets of our community, including but not limited to our taxi drivers, restaurants, tour operators and retail businesses, which in turn ultimately leads to higher gross receipts taxes for the territory.
On October 12th a historic vote will take place by the 32nd legislature with respect to the proposed government loan to the developer of the Yacht Haven Grande hotel.
We have a natural economic corridor between the Government owned Havensight Mall and the historic downtown district. The waterfront redevelopment and esplanade will enhance the quality of life for our residents and visitors. The proposed hotel would sit in the center of this economic activity.
The cruise industry has expressed tremendous interest in a Long Bay Landing Dock and festival park. High level discussions have taken place between WICO / VIPA and major cruise lines operating in the USVI to create more berthing capacity for future growth and to accommodate the larger Oasis class ships and bigger. The cruise industry will be watching this very closely and if we vote Yes, it shows that we are business friendly and that the government is a solid and reliable partner supporting economic expansion in the territory.
Can we really expect the cruise industry, prospective Economic Development Authority companies, major hotel flags, or other business sectors to have confidence in the Government of The Virgin Islands in moving forward with any development or business project if the senate votes NO to this hotel deal that is pending legislative approval?
It has been debated in the media; how do we justify loaning $10 million to a developer when we have so many outstanding obligations. We should of course honor our obligations. However, I would argue the hotel is a long-term investment in the future of St. Thomas because it will generate jobs, taxes, and new revenue streams for decades to come.
Any deal looked at under a microscope will have holes. Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I encourage all our senators to vote Yes, so we can honor all of our obligations to the people of the Virgin Islands.
The India Association of the Virgin Islands endorses this project unanimously along with the Chamber of Commerce and the Cruise Ship Task Force members and urges the 32nd Legislature to vote favorably on this new hotel project.
Pash Daswani, President of The India Association of the Virgin Islands