Oct. 11, 2004 – Danish visitors arrived the Henry E. Rohlsen airport on Saturday to begin a 10-day vacation that will introduce them to the sights, sounds and tastes of all three Virgin Islands. The arrival of these 220 guests launched the second half of scheduled charter excursions. The excursions have resumed after a hiatus during hurricane season. The flights began in April and have already brought over 2,000 visitors, according to Torben Eirby, president of the Danish West Indies Travel Agency.
Visitors were greeted by a contingent from the Department of Tourism who encouraged travelers to sample tropical drinks flavored with Cruzan rum. Pamela C. Richards, tourism commissioner, urged businesses to roll out the red carpet and compel visitors to explore the towns by scheduling more nighttime activities.
According to their tour schedule, half of the visitors immediately flew to St. Thomas aboard charter planes, which were standing ready on the tarmac. They will return to St. Croix after a week; then the second group flies to St. Thomas. The visitors will be participating in excursions and island tours, Eirby said. He noted Danes are most interested in exploring the historical connection between the islands and Denmark. The islands were under Danish rule for over 250 years.
St. Croix Taxi Cab Association president Cedric Sutton was busy organizing his fleet of over 15 taxi vans. He was glad to be so busy. Sutton said his drivers are "frustrated" at the lack of work adding, if not for the Danish charter, there are few weekend flights. "After 5:30 on weekends, there are no flights until one at 10 p.m.," Sutton said.
This group included a large number of children. "They want to see where the television series, 'Island of the Pixies' was filmed," said Roy Lawaetz, who was on hand to greet the arrivals. Lawaetz is a St. Croix native of Danish descent, who speaks fluent Danish. He will be conducting some of the island tours. The 24-episode series, filmed in St. Croix, was aired in Denmark over the Christmas holidays. More than 1.3 million Danish viewers watched the program.
Sixteen V.I. hotels are participating in the program, Eirby said, 12 on St. Croix, three on St. Thomas and one on St. John. He also said when this round of charters ends in mid-2005, the program would be expanded to include other hotels.
However, according to some Frederiksted business owners, the West End town is not getting a big enough slice of the economic pie.
The Frederiksted Hotel is the only hotel west of the Carambola Resort included in the Danish tour package. Lauchland Tounge, the hotel's owner, said a group of 15 reserved nine rooms for Oct. 30 – the second Danish charter flight. There are five hotels in Frederiksted.
Simone Palmer wishes her Frederiksted hotel, Sand Castles on the Beach, were included on the list of approved locations for the Danes. Palmer said Eirby came to see her at Sand Castles in November 2003 and she contacted him again at the end of March. He said he would talk to his travel agents in Denmark about including her hotel, "but he never got back in touch with me," said Palmer.
The Frederiksted Hotel abuts the waterfront renovation project, which restricts public and vehicular access from the intersection of King Cross and Strand Streets to Fort Frederik. The waterfront renovation is part of the Frederiksted Economic Revitalization Project and will be completed at the end of 2005. The project began in May 2004.
Bridget Dawson, who organizes the monthly Sunset Jazz, said Frederiksted is being "blackballed." Dawson said Eirby received complaints from Danish tourists that Frederiksted was "unsafe" and a "ghost town."
Eirby said he had received complaints but has not given up on Frederiksted. He agreed the waterfront project is affecting the program because visitors enjoy walking on the waterfront, but "when it is finished it will be beautiful." He also said he hopes to include more Frederiksted hotels to the new 2006 roster, and he is introducing a "Best of the West excursion, featuring more time in Frederiksted."
"We are trying to focus more on Frederiksted," said Eirby.
Sgt. Thomas Hannah, police department spokesman, advised the visitors there is "safety in numbers." He said there were no reported incidents of crime in Frederiksted by the last round of Danish visitors, but a visitor was robbed while exploring the Christiansted cemetery alone. He urged the Danish travelers to "walk in groups."
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