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Tourism Hosts Major Hotel Investment and Development Conference on St. Thomas

The Caribbean’s premiere hotel investment conference held it’s 12th meeting at Westin Resort and Spa at Frenchman’s Reef, Nov. 12-14. (Source file photo)

With the recent reopening of its Marquis hotel destination, St. Thomas can once again accommodate conferences and corporate incentive meetings. Operating under the new name Westin Resort and Spa at Frenchman’s Reef, the venue hosted a three-day conference of hotel developers, bankers, investors, and hotel brand executives.

Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte welcomed members of the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit (CHICOS) and appeared as a panelist in one of the sessions. The event held its 12th conference at the Reef from Nov 12-14 and was expected to attract more than 350 investors and top tourism decision-makers from the region and abroad.

In an interview held after the meeting wrapped up on Tuesday, Boschulte described his agency’s efforts to bring the coveted event to St. Thomas and stage it at the island’s premiere destination resort.

“We won the business last year and they came here. There were almost 300 participants,” the commissioner said. “The focus of the conference was the Caribbean; it gave Tourism a chance to showcase the territory,” Boschulte said. It also gives Tourism a chance to showcase the revitalized Reef resort and Buoy Haus, Boschulte said. Hosting the conference in the reopened venue also brought the opportunity to show industry leaders the new conference center was open, active, and available.

Conference panel discussions featured leaders from the major international hotel brands, industry stakeholders, and investment firms doing business in the region. Among the topics were hotel development, financing, marketing, and exploring the “One Caribbean” concept. There was also a comparative analysis of the Caribbean market to the tourism markets in Europe and Asia.

“We are doing very well,” the Tourism commissioner said.

Parris Jordan, chairman of the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit, said he saw the CHICOS conference as a chance for participants to see the Virgin Islands tourism product being revived. “We have been witnessing the rise of the USVI, which has seen significant increases in terms of hotel performance, as well as air arrivals and cruise passenger visitation over the last few years,” Jordan said.

The Reef reopened in early September after undergoing a $425 million resort rebuild. The former Morningstar Beach Resort — reconstructed and renamed Buoy Haus — reopened in May.

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