Are we really serious about improving our local economic picture? I ask that question of our government officials after looking at the budget allocation for the various departments of our government. While the Governors proposed 3.1 million dollars to fund tourism, the finance committee saw it fit to cut that amount by almost 10% to 2.8 million.We as a community must stop looking at tourism promotion as expenditure but rather as an investment for improving this communitys future. The figure of 2.8 million represents only half a percent (.50%) of the total budget! I find it very disheartening as a member of this community to see another year go by with no serious effort to provide the financial resources to our Department of Tourism to succeed in promoting the U.S. Virgin Islands. No Tourism commissioner past, present, or future will succeed in doing the job with such a small budget. To make money you must spend money and, in saying so, our leaders must come up with a way to dedicate more money to promote tourism. Ideally a fixed percentage of 2.5% is a good start.
The tourism industry is just like a family cars six-cylinder engine: all pistons must be working in harmony. Cruise ship arrivals represents just two pistons, overnight arrivals two, and the marine industry the other two. Imagine the revenue potential of all six pistons working to drive this economy. Where would our revenue projection be? 750 million? 900 million? The community could have it all, if it put the first piece of the puzzle in place.
In light of the recent attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, tourism worldwide has seen a downturn. Serious tourist destinations will need to spend, spend and spend to lure tourists back. Any delay in the start of the 2001-2002 season will have serious impact on the projected revenues of our government. We as an "American Paradise" have a big advantage over other Caribbean destinations in being uniquely American, and we need to promote our islands to Americans who will be looking to escape from the daily grinds of everyday living.
"Escape to Americas Paradise. The U.S. Virgin Islands." This should be our battle cry to fight back to restore our economy and restore lost jobs. This battle cry will not be heard if we cannot pay to get the word out to the nation and restore Americans faith in travel.
Some food for thought as we look forward.
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