St. Thomas Source
I just read Jean Etsinger's Op-Ed column, June 29, 1999 and I am compelled to respond.
She makes a good point by noting that the Commissioner of Tourism should not have to chair meetings of the Port Authority nor the Industrial Development Commission. However, I did not hear a peep from her when Roy Schneider made this dumb reorganization move. But the tourism industry was so hung up on getting its own department that it accepted it and is now hoisted by its own petard.
Etsinger's comments, however, degrade into so much drivel when she launches her personal attacks against past and present commissioners and the current acting commissioner of the department.
She begins by giving praise, and rightfully so, to Leona Bryant for her role in growing the tourism industry in the US Virgin Islands. But Leona, to the best of my knowledge, was not born into the job of director of Tourism. She got the job because of her political connections at the time (as did many others) and learned on the job using her beauty, a great personality, lots of energy and intelligence which she parlayed into the success she enjoyed. The current acting commissioner has these same characteristics.
Leona also had one other important weapon. She never had a governor who used the tourism advertising budget for the central government's obligations and she therefore could wage a fairly active advertising campaign on behalf of the territory.
Etsinger next excoriates David Edgell and Wylie Whisonant, dismissing them as "just- comes." Presumably, her seventeen-year residence makes her an expert on the sociology of migrants but it may just make her a just-come, as well! The irony, of course, is that both Edgell and Whisonant were touted as "professionals" who had the credentials and expertise to take tourism to the next level. It was not to be, perhaps proving that the "professionals" often cannot run organizations.
Etsinger then attacks Cain Magras as being nothing more than an old pol who brought no marketing, hospitality or management background to the job. She cleverly and fraudulently tries to give the credit for the Sinbad festival to Judy Watson, former assistant commissioner of Tourism, but the truth is that Cain Magras, with the able assistance of Manny Centeno, was the person who made that event the success that it was. Etsinger also conveniently forgets, in her zeal to discredit Magras, that within six months of his tenure, he had brought two major airlines to the territory and a couple more commuter airlines had expressed a commitment to fly out of the US Virgin Islands.
In addition, he had begun the process of paying some of the vendors who produced the advertising and other necessary services for the department. Indeed, a fair analysis of Magras' potential would reveal that the tourism industry had a captain who would make a positive difference.
Finally, Etsinger continues her diatribe with a personal attack on Monique Sibilly-Hodge, my wife and current the acting commissioner of Tourism. (I will ignore the stupidity of her remarks regarding my decision not to run for reelection as they are irrelevant to the point she is trying and failing to make.)
Again, she conveniently forgets to check her facts using a non-event as proof of Sibilly-Hodge's inability to perform. It is simply not true that "[Sibilly-Hodge's] first high-visibility act [was] flying to San Antonio on behalf of the people to praise Tim Duncan." She did not make the decision to go and no one went to San Antonio!
Etsinger, like so many other wannabe critics, does not take the time to inquire whether there are any institutional problems which make it difficult for anyone to perform well in this job. She does not know the efforts being made to find the funds for the advertising campaign; she knows nothing about the improvement in employee morale in the department; she knows nothing about an attempt to bring tourists from Denmark to St. Croix using a new strategy or the other matters Sibilly-Hodge is working on to improve our tourism product; she ignores the difficulties in reducing the department's workforce by 15%. In short, Etsinger knows nothing!
Derek M. Hodge
RUNNING TOURISM TAKE MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
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