Sept. 22, 2007 — Judging from the judge's choice for the junior commissioner of tourism, the future of V.I. tourism is in good hands.
Kia Griffith, a student at St. Croix Central High School, was chosen Saturday to represent the territory in Puerto Rico in October at a Caribbean-wide competition.
"We are going to put you to work as an intern," said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, tourism commissioner. "You won't just be doing ribbon-cutting ceremonies."
"I am happy, excited and pleased to be chosen to represent the Virgin Islands as the Junior Commissioner of Tourism," said Griffith, who was presented a trophy.
Lanis Griffin, Kia's grandmother, was there to cheer her on. "My heart skipped a beat when I heard her name as the winner," she said. "Kia always does her best at everything she does."
In conjunction with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the V.I. Department of Tourism hosted the annual Inter-School Youth Congress at the Fritz E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room in Frederiksted. Griffith competed with seven other students from schools across the territory as they gave five-minute presentations on the topic of "Health and Wellness Tourism;" the second-round topic was "The Caribbean Intra-Regional Travel Market." The event attracted student coaches, families, politicians and tourism leaders.
As moderator of the program, Nicholson-Doty pointed out that tourists over 50 years old have more cash, more free time and are looking at health, wellness and pampering for vacations.
Students picked up on that fact in the marketing strategies they presented. They said marketing should focus on spas, local herbal treatments, sea baths, sunlight therapy and exercising at beaches and on hiking trails.
Students added that eco-resorts such as Concordia Estates on St. John and Mt. Victory Camp on St. Croix should be promoted for fitness and healthy retreats for all age groups.
Among the many ideas offered:
Emmanuel Horsford from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas suggested the Virgin Islands should try to partner with the highly regarded Cleveland Clinic to lure doctors here so baby boomers could come to paradise to heal.
Griffith suggested that after treatment at the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute, patients could do rehab at Beeston Hill, then golf at the Buccaneer or at Mahogany Run. Griffith also touched on the need for service providers to know different languages.
Students noted that no passports are needed and currency is not an issue. "Visitors will leave the islands fully refreshed and rejuvenated after these healthy experiences," said Lorie Jeffers from Manor School on St. Croix.
In the second round on intra-regional travel the students spoke on such topics as the high cost of inter-island airfare and possibly partnering with Hovensa to help lower rates.
Julia Julien, a student at Good Hope School on St. Croix, thinks the V.I. needs to do more with Tempo and the inter-island shows they produce, making sure that hotels are adequately attending to customer service.
Janett Bass, a student at St. Croix Country Day School, would like to see financial backers subsidize inter island ferries and do land and sea packages.
Cultural, heritage, and sports promotions were on a lot of the student's minds. Working with governments on visas and lengths of stays were also mentioned.
Judges for the contest included Richard Doumeng, former head of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association; V.I. Board of Education Executive Director Carol Henneman; and St. Croix attorney Emile A. Henderson III. Sens. James Weber, Terrance Nelson and Usie Richards were among the crowd of 40 or so in attendance.
The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association made a special presentation of $200 each to Shequilla Robinson and Kyan Richards, winners for essays on tourism from St. Patricks School.
Other students taking part in the competition were; Odari Thomas, Charlotte Amalie High School; Zachary Kiefer, Antilles School; and Duvante Vegas, St. Joseph High School.
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