May 12, 2005 In celebration of Tourism Week, officials at the V.I. Department of Tourism interacted with students from several junior high and high schools. The intent behind the discussion, according to the officials, was that these students, and, in fact every resident, holds the key to the future of tourism in the Virgin Islands.
"We must all make an emotional commitment to keep visitors coming back to the Virgin Islands and spending more money," Pamela C. Richards, tourism commissioner said, as she addressed about 40 students on Wednesday in the Evans Theatre of the University of the Virgin Islands, on St. Croix. Richards was talking about "service vs. servitude" and explaining to the students there was a distinct difference between the two.
"The concept of service delivery is what spells success for one destination over another, yet some say service is negative, which has a destructive influence on our guests," Richards said.
Richards asked the students to introduce themselves and tell what grade and school they attended. Richards encouraged the students to project their voices and be assertive. "Be confident and sure of yourself," Richards said.
Richards told the students, who took time off from classes at the Manor School, Arthur A. Richards, Central High School and the Education Complex, that developing strong interpersonal skills and the ability to interact professionally will aid them in whatever career they choose, especially the hospitality industry. "St. Croix is a wonderland of nature," Richards said. "The success of tourism and our economy is determined by the people our visitors interact with."
Dr. Solomon Kabuka, a professor of tourism and management at UVI and native of Uganda, told the students, "While servitude is demeaning and forced, service is performed for a positive result." Kabuka said 60 cents out of every dollar in the Virgin Islands is associated with tourism and providing a positive experience for travelers "from the airport to the beaches to shopping and dining," is the responsibility of everyone who comes into contact with tourists. "The positive experience of the visitor will last longer than the experience," Kabuka said. "Service needs to be embraced."
Arnaldo Salinas, senior director of Guardian Angels, took a slightly different tact when he addressed the students. He asked if students are forced to perform chores at home they don't want to. Most of the students raised their hands. Salinas told them if they wanted to make a difference in the world they could. He told them to have the right attitude and they could be leaders and make positive changes. Urging the students to stand up and be a role model by joining the Guardian Angels, Salinas said, "To make St. Croix a tourist haven we must reduce school violence and street crime." He said there is a difference between "ratting" and reporting injustices against other people. "Our biggest challenge is getting good people to stand up for what is right." Salinas said working from the ground up, starting with the youth, positive changes will occur that will benefit St. Croix and the Virgin Islands for years to come.
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