May 9, 2004 – National Tourism Week, which runs through next Sunday, is an initiative of the Travel Industry Association of America, and this is the 21st annual observance.
It's "a time when the territory focuses on the impact of travel and tourism," Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards said in a release. "We thank our visitors for their patronage, honor the employees who serve them and show our pride for our industry."
The Tourism Department release cited some national figures: The travel and tourism sector accounts for 7.2 million jobs, and about one in every 18 private-sector workers owes his or her job to "direct travel spending in the United States." Also, it stated, travel and tourism generate more than $545 billion in expenditures, providing about $93 billion in tax revenues to local, state and federal governments.
The release did not provide break-out figures for the Virgin Islands, but it is widely regarded that tourism is the primary basis for both private-sector employment and revenue generation on St. Thomas and St. John. It has played a major role in the past on St. Croix and could again in the future.
The release did cite these local figures, provided by the Bureau of Economic Research:
– The number of visitors to the territory in 2003 was up 2.4 percent from 2002.
– Overnight hotel accommodations in 2003 were up 6.3 percent from 2002.
– Air arrivals in 2003 were up 3.3 percent from 2002.
It is not clear whether the calender year or the fiscal year is being cited. Fiscal year 2002 began on Oct. 1, 2001, just three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland, which impacted greatly on travel, both because of interruption of service and because of the reluctance on the part of many people to travel by air or to go abroad. Even well into the calendar year, the tourism industry nationwide — indeed, worldwide — was struggling to recover in the aftermath of the attacks.
"In order for us to sustain this statistical growth," Richards said, "we have to ensure the community's involvement. Therefore, we have planned for this week a series of activities and events designed for visitor and community participation." Through the activities, she said, "the department will showcase our destination's proud culture and heritage that is the essence of the U.S. Virgin Islands America's Caribbean."
Following is the schedule of local Tourism Week events:
St. Thomas-St. John observances
Sunday Houses of worship were asked to "offer special prayers for the tourism industry workers."
Monday A "tourism trivia" question-and-answer segment will be featured on Addie Ottley's "Morning Show" on WSTA Radio. Winners will receive gifts from the Tourism Department.
Tuesday The Tourism Department in collaboration with Dorothy Elskoe and the Committee to Revive Our Culture is hosting a cultural fair in Emancipation Garden from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Arts and crafts and local foods will be for sale.
Wednesday Everyone is asked to wear red in celebration of Tourism Week.
Thursday Tourism professionals will speak to students about the hospitality sector and its impact on the community.
Friday Students from various schools will take field trips to experience what it feels like to be a tourist for a day.
St. Croix observances
Monday A "Know Your Islands and Go Places" trivia contest will be hosted by WJKC-FM/Isle 95.
Monday through Friday Tourism awareness booths will be in place at Florence Williams Library in Christiansted and Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library in Frederiksted.
Wednesday The Tourism Department asks its hospitality sector partners to join in recognizing the industry by displaying red balloons in establishments and by wearing red.
Also Wednesday Tours for students of island attractions and hotels will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Saturday It will be Cultural Day at Buddhoe Park in Frederiksted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The national tourism picture
According to Travel Industry Association of America Web site, partnerships are key to the success of National Tourism Week. It states that the association's public planning partners are national arts, cultural and heritage agencies; and its private planning partners are the tourism, hospitality and recreation trade associations which can encourage their members to become involved.
And last week was the nationally observed Preservation Week, which, the Web site noted, allowed for overlapping promotions.
Findings reported last year from a study conducted by the association and Smithsonian Magazine showed "continued and growing interest in travelers' desire to experience cultural, arts, historic and heritage activities." (See the association's report on its Research for National Tourism Week.)
"A remarkable 81 percent of U.S. adults who traveled in the past year, or 118 million, are considered historic/cultural travelers. These travelers included historical or cultural activities on almost 217 million person-trips [in 2002], up 13 percent from 192 million in 1996." A person-trip is one person on one trip traveling 50 miles or more from home, one way.
"The sheer volume of travelers interested in arts and history, as well as their spending habits and their travel patterns and demographics, leaves no doubt that history and culture continue to be a significant and growing part of the U.S. travel experience," the associated report stated. These travelers on average spend more money than the average U.S. traveler — $623 vs. $457 excluding transportation "making historic/cultural travelers a lucrative market for destinations and attractions."
The association also cited a landmark study sponsored by the National Geographic Society's Traveler magazine documenting "the strong feelings U.S. travelers have about preserving the natural environment as well as history and culture." The study found that more than three-quarters of American travelers "feel it is important that their visits not damage the environment. And 62 percent say it's important to learn about other cultures when they travel."
The study defined these travelers as "geotourists" and said there are more than 55 million of them in the United States. It defined geotourism as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of the place being visited, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents." And this, the association noted, "describes completely all aspects of sustainability in travel." The Tourism Department release stated: "In a rapidly changing world, the tourism industry is evolving and becoming increasingly diversified and sophisticated. From entry-level employees to top-level executives, tourism-related jobs in the United States can be found in technology, transportation, hospitality, meeting services, attractions and theme parks, sightseeing, entertainment, special-interest travel, recreation, outdoor and nature-based travel, as well as travel marketing and promotions."
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