April 4, 2003 The Caribbean Hotel Association is the latest entry in the swelling ranks of protest to the V.I. Port Authority's February airline rate hikes. In a release this week, the CHA said it is calling on Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and the VIPA board to reconsider the decision to increase rental and landing fees for airlines operating in the islands.
The rental fees were not increased, VIPA has said. The landing and passenger fees were increased.
"The tourism industry worldwide, and the Caribbean tourism industry in particular, has struggled for the past two years to recover from the most serious crisis in its history," Simon Suarez, CHA president, said. "With airlines reducing capacity in response to the challenges of the current economic situation, compounded by the conflict in the Middle East, both public and private sectors need to strengthen their cooperation and consider the long term consequences of any measure."
In response to the fee hike, American Airlines is closing its St. Croix airport counter, and American Eagle is discontinuing St. Thomas-St. Croix service May 1. American's Miami-St. Croix service will still operate, but will be handled by American Eagle personnel, the airline said. (See "American Eagle Axing St. Thomas-St. Croix links.")
Suarez said he fully supports the position of the hotel and tourism industry of the Virgin Islands, and its efforts to sensitize the public sector. He quoted a letter written to Turnbull by David Yamada, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association.
Yamada wrote Turnbull in part: "We have already witnessed the airlines' expeditious moves to stop their financial hemorrhaging with flight reductions, elimination of services and layoffs … the direct loss to our economy would far exceed $25 million."
CHA is headquartered in Puerto Rico with 1,100 member hotels in 34 national hotel associations. It is dedicated to sustainable growth in tourism to the benefit of the wider Caribbean community. Its Web site is www.caribbeanhotels.org.
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