The proposal that our Delegate to Congress, Donna Christensen, has presented for consideration before the House Resources Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands to have the U.S. Department of Interior invest in conducting a study to make St. Croix a National Heritage Site is excellent for St. Croix's economic development. I am a firm believer that the tourism market that will be key for St. Croix's progress economically will be dependent on the consistent flow of visitors staying on land for several days at a time by means of air travel.
As for a plan for St. Croix's economic revitalization, we must not set our hearts on relying solely on the cruise ships for our economic survival. We must admit to ourselves that St. Thomas is recognized as an international port of call, and the "competitive spirit" between our two islands will make it difficult, but not impossible, to enter agreements with stakeholders in the cruise-ship tourism industry for consistent cruise-ship visits to St. Croix. Agreeing with our Delegate on this initiative, we on St. Croix need to diversify our tourism product by offering tourists something that will make us stand out and be distinct among our two sister islands in the Virgin Islands. Developing the infrastructure that promotes heritage and cultural tourism, sports tourism, event tourism and convention tourism is perfect for St. Croix. St. Thomas has no more room for expansion, and St. Croix, being virgin with plenty of land for growth, now has an incredible opportunity to expand its economic development to cater to the mentioned markets. In developing such a plan, it will be essential to focus on increasing simultaneously St. Croix's hotel room capacity to cater to the great influx of visitors that will come as a result of reaching our intended new target market. It is imperative that our future capital improvement projects projected between now and the next ten years be centered on the aforementioned target markets of tourism.
The Salt River Bay area, historically recognized as Christopher Columbus' port of entry into St. Croix, meets four out of the five requirements necessary to be considered internationally as a World Heritage Site. This is a special clearinghouse seal of approval for major archeological and historical landmarks of great significance in global history designated internationally from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In the Caribbean, there are only two other sites that are being considered by the United Nations for the same title, of which one is the controversial claim on the authentic burial ground of Christopher Columbus in the Dominican Republic. Currently, this site is under consideration for a World Heritage Site nomination. Unknown to many of our local residents, we have sites on St. Croix that have authentic recordable historical data and artifacts that are traceable back 4000 years; few nations in the world can claim such a wonder.
A study was conducted in which 112 conservation and heritage officials, as tourists, visiting the National Parks and Wildlife Service on St. Croix made a direct impact on St. Croix's economy as they infused 3.9 million dollars for a given week through hotel reservations and patronizing our local vendors. Deeming St. Croix as a National Heritage Site from the U.S. Congress will help promote efforts being made at the local level to foster a stronger partnership with the United Nations that will open St. Croix for a very strong heritage tourism global market.
At this crucial time in our island's history, we can not afford to keep our creativity stagnant like still waters where we create plans and do not have the courage to implement them. Rather, it will take great strength, inner conviction, courage, and heart to think "big," and stop using ancient and outdated thought processes of 30 years ago. We must not be afraid to be creative, modern, and adept to new problem-solving ideas, concepts, and techniques of the 21st century. In studying successful national and international models for economic development that may be compatible as we compare areas similar in geography, demography, and suit the needs of St. Croix, broadening our scope may help us compete in a global economy. We must as a people begin to have an "outside of the box" mentality instead of holding our economic potential captive by fear of change, the unknown, and by keeping our creativity hidden within the perimeters of an "inside of the box" only mentality. We must avoid an economic collapse of our beautiful island, St. Croix, for the sake of our children and our heritage. I commend and lend my full support to Delegate Christensen and all stakeholders at the local level who are currently coordinating with her to see our tourism market for St. Croix become diversified.
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