Sept. 16, 2007 — The two-day Cultural Heritage Tourism Conference on St. Croix, sponsored by the V.I. Humanities Council, ended Saturday as it began — emphasizing the benefits that can be reaped from the Virgin Islands' unique and diverse cultural history. Cultural and heritage tourists spend more, stay longer and return more often, according to data presented.
"We need to stop with all the talk, and get with the action," said Beverly Nicholson- Doty, commissioner of tourism. She added, "We need to look at what is uniquely ours to market St. Croix and create unique visitor experiences." Nicholson-Doty was a featured panelist at Carambola Resort, where the working conference was held.
"Some of the basic premises for heritage tourism is having the entire community involved. Visitors must receive more than they expected," said keynote speaker Donovan D. Rypkema, a lecturer in historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the principal of PlaceEconomics, a consulting firm dealing with real estate, economic development and historic preservation.
"Heritage tourism is labor intensive, and labor needs to be addressed," Rypkema added.
Echoing the idea of community involvement, Nicholson-Doty said, "We are all stakeholders in our future. Tourism only works if it works for all of us."
During the economic impact and accountability workshop, a discussion was held on the need to educate people and have a cohesive understanding of tourism.
"The tourism product needs to be refined and redefined and we need to be ready when they come calling," said Nadine Marchena Kean, director of the V.I. Economic Development Authority.
Representing CHANT (Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism) was Executive Director Rick Carrington. He stressed the need to focus on nature tourism as a leading product for St. Croix. "We must realize mass tourism isn't for St. Croix," he said. CHANT has been working in partnership with Mt. Victory Camp on events such as a Jumbie Talk coming up on Oct. 28. Oral traditions such as story telling and hikes are held though out the year at the camp.
Partnership was also a factor emphasized in opening remarks for the policy workshop lead by Wanda Mills Bocachica, planning director for the Department of Natural Resources and member of the V.I. Humanities Council. She said, "DPNR needs to be revising existing zoning codes to be ready for contemporary needs. The government needs to be reaching out to different organizations and focus on working in partnership."
Other highlights from the conference:
Sen. Basil Ottley also brought up private and public sector collaboration. He said his strategy is to work with the Economic Development Authority, Public Works, Waste Management, State Historical Preservation and the Education Department.
Vera M. Falu, president of the V.I. Puerto Rican Friendship Committee, gave her ideas on strategies for success such as marketing the Crucian Carnival, keeping the islands clean and bringing common courtesy back. "All government employees should carry a V.I. flag and map when they travel to let people know where and who we are," Falu said.
Ninety-two-year-old Delta Dorsch was recognized and awarded a certificate of appreciation during the conference luncheon for her work as an educator and author. Children in the federally funded Weed and Seed Program under the direction of musician King Derby provided entertainment during the luncheon.
Mabel Maduro executive director of the V.I. Humanities Council, said the council will "review, fine tune and realize the goals of this conference."
It was left to Dr. Olaf Hendricks, chief of staff at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, to get some laughs when he said, "Mama always told me, to give a good speech, wear a pretty shirt or make it long." He had on a colorful madras shirt.
"The appearance of venues is important, images are very important, all of us must do better," said Hendricks. "Roads to venues must be clean and in good shape. We need to minimize pollution, which is a new way to look at the way things are here," said Hendricks.
He concluded on a purely Crucian note, saying, "This is a job for 'all ah we.'"
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