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St. Thomas Last in Magazine's Ranking of World Islands

Nov. 1, 2007 — The November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler, a top-flight travel magazine, slammed St. Thomas in a recent survey that focused on tourism overkill on islands around the world.
St. Thomas had a rating of 37 on a scale of 1 to 100, the very bottom of the list. St. Croix fared better with a 53, and St. John came in at a 70. Tortola had a rating of 61.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty said Wednesday that National Geographic Traveler did not contact the Tourism Department before the survey. However, she said she followed up with the magazine and will be given an opportunity to comment.
"We understand the impact of the magazine," Doty said. She said she was not pleased with the story, but will address the "challenges" outlined for the territory in the article. Doty said she plans to explore how the magazine arrived at its ratings.
The top island in the Caribbean was Dominica with a 77. The Faroe Islands in Denmark topped the list with an 87.
According to the article, islands with ratings of 0 to 25 are catastrophic, and 26 to 49 — which is where St. Thomas falls — are in serious trouble. Islands with ratings of 50 to 65, like St. Croix and Tortola, are in moderate trouble. Those with ratings of 66 to 85, including St. John, have minor difficulties. Islands with a rating of 86 to 95 are authentic, unspoiled and likely to remain so. A score of 96 to 100 is considered enhanced.
"This survey isn't the final word on the travel health of the world's islands," Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows said, according to a news release on the National Geographic Traveler website. "It's a work in progress, a snapshot in time. We hope that places at the bottom of our destination scorecard won't be there for long. We're interested in constructive criticism, not condemnation."
National Geographic Traveler teamed up with its National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations to conduct the survey of 111 selected islands and archipelagos. According to the article, the scores reflect the opinions of 522 experts in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship.
Several of those experts had past affiliations with the Virgin Islands, including former Tourism Commissioner David Edgell. Others are Jim Owens, who served as a park planner, and Ginger Garrison, who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey on St. John.
And Harry S. Parisier writes Explore the Virgin Islands, a guidebook to the territory.
Randy Brown, who currently serves as V.I. Environmental Resource Station administrator, and Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of environmental resources, are on the list. Boulon said he had no idea how he was picked.
"I received an email one day that asked me to participate," he said.
He selected a handful of islands he was familiar with, including St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Tortola, as well as a couple farther south.
The experts were picked because they were well-traveled people with an understanding of sustainability and tourism issues, said National Geographic spokeswoman Carol Seitz on Wednesday.
The experts judged the islands with which they were familiar on environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of tourism management and outlook for the future.
The list provides a link to quotes from the experts, but does not identify them by name.
This is what they had to say about St. Thomas:
"A mess — too many cruise ships disgorging their passengers into the small town. Totally spoiled and low-quality, high-volume destination."
"The main town is essentially one big, ugly jewelry store, but the island is nice outside of the main town."
"Must have been a lovely place before it became the shopping mall for cruise ships. Still some pretty beaches away from the shoppers and stunning views from steep hills."
"Once upon a time, St. Thomas was the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, with sculpted peaks and deep coves. It's all developed now, and the pressure of up to 10 cruise ships in a day (almost two million arrivals a year) erases that natural beauty. The native population is unfriendly, with a coldness that borders on outright hostility."
The remarks about St. Croix were slightly better:
"Mixed bag; this island hosts one of the largest petrochemical plants in the Caribbean and has significant environmental problems. Coastlines are stunningly beautiful, whereas inland shows significant signs of mismanaged land and environmental degradation."
"St. Croix has a natural and cultural heritage showcased through its National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge sites."
"Social and cultural integrity the most intact of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Environment was drastically changed in the plantation era — a part of cultural heritage. Crime is a major problem, as is water quality on many beaches. Could be sustainable if rampant development is kept in check. Hotels mainly big, with a big footprint on the island. Few locals benefit from tourism. A real West Indian island where locals work and live, not a tourism-dedicated playground."
"The addition of the Virgin Islands' first casino in 2001 was a dumb move — the garish facility draws few tourists, but a fair quantity of locals, who gamble their paychecks away."
And the reviewers agree that St. John's V.I. National Park saved the island from the fate of its sisters, but see problems on the horizon:
"St. John is the best in the Caribbean. Much of its natural environment has been saved by the Park Service and ecologically minded business people. Its long-term prospects, especially for the locals, will depend on good sustainable tourism management."
"The national park has saved this virgin from being tired like St. Thomas. There's almost no trash along the roads, you can hike for a couple of miles without coming across structures, and there are fabulous bays reachable only on foot (or boat); snorkeling is outstanding. Still, several beaches are heavily impacted by cruise ship visitors ferrying over from St. Thomas. The park is understaffed. One-third of the island is not park and is under siege with over-scaled villas. Cruz Bay is losing its ramshackle charm to newer buildings containing shopping malls and real estate developers. Traffic is congested."
Tortola got kudos for its charter industry, but a warning about its development.
"Beautiful island with considerable environmental quality. Threat of development looms."
"Most tourism associated with chartering boats — highly appropriate and sustainable tourism the way the BVI is regulating it."
"A highly priced island where natives are fiercely proud and protective of their territory."
"Failure to control cruise tourist visits, including permitting up to 3,500 visitors a day, is seriously diminishing quality of life for BV Islanders."
"Tortola is rapidly experiencing the problems of mass-tourism destinations, thereby losing its charm and uniqueness. Blame the cruise ships, poor land-use planning and high-density development. Its sister islands in the BVI are far more attractive."
To view the entire article, click here.
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Nov. 1, 2007 -- The November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler, a top-flight travel magazine, slammed St. Thomas in a recent survey that focused on tourism overkill on islands around the world.
St. Thomas had a rating of 37 on a scale of 1 to 100, the very bottom of the list. St. Croix fared better with a 53, and St. John came in at a 70. Tortola had a rating of 61.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty said Wednesday that National Geographic Traveler did not contact the Tourism Department before the survey. However, she said she followed up with the magazine and will be given an opportunity to comment.
"We understand the impact of the magazine," Doty said. She said she was not pleased with the story, but will address the "challenges" outlined for the territory in the article. Doty said she plans to explore how the magazine arrived at its ratings.
The top island in the Caribbean was Dominica with a 77. The Faroe Islands in Denmark topped the list with an 87.
According to the article, islands with ratings of 0 to 25 are catastrophic, and 26 to 49 -- which is where St. Thomas falls -- are in serious trouble. Islands with ratings of 50 to 65, like St. Croix and Tortola, are in moderate trouble. Those with ratings of 66 to 85, including St. John, have minor difficulties. Islands with a rating of 86 to 95 are authentic, unspoiled and likely to remain so. A score of 96 to 100 is considered enhanced.
"This survey isn't the final word on the travel health of the world's islands," Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows said, according to a news release on the National Geographic Traveler website. "It's a work in progress, a snapshot in time. We hope that places at the bottom of our destination scorecard won't be there for long. We're interested in constructive criticism, not condemnation."
National Geographic Traveler teamed up with its National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations to conduct the survey of 111 selected islands and archipelagos. According to the article, the scores reflect the opinions of 522 experts in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship.
Several of those experts had past affiliations with the Virgin Islands, including former Tourism Commissioner David Edgell. Others are Jim Owens, who served as a park planner, and Ginger Garrison, who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey on St. John.
And Harry S. Parisier writes Explore the Virgin Islands, a guidebook to the territory.
Randy Brown, who currently serves as V.I. Environmental Resource Station administrator, and Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of environmental resources, are on the list. Boulon said he had no idea how he was picked.
"I received an email one day that asked me to participate," he said.
He selected a handful of islands he was familiar with, including St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Tortola, as well as a couple farther south.
The experts were picked because they were well-traveled people with an understanding of sustainability and tourism issues, said National Geographic spokeswoman Carol Seitz on Wednesday.
The experts judged the islands with which they were familiar on environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of tourism management and outlook for the future.
The list provides a link to quotes from the experts, but does not identify them by name.
This is what they had to say about St. Thomas:
"A mess -- too many cruise ships disgorging their passengers into the small town. Totally spoiled and low-quality, high-volume destination."
"The main town is essentially one big, ugly jewelry store, but the island is nice outside of the main town."
"Must have been a lovely place before it became the shopping mall for cruise ships. Still some pretty beaches away from the shoppers and stunning views from steep hills."
"Once upon a time, St. Thomas was the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, with sculpted peaks and deep coves. It's all developed now, and the pressure of up to 10 cruise ships in a day (almost two million arrivals a year) erases that natural beauty. The native population is unfriendly, with a coldness that borders on outright hostility."
The remarks about St. Croix were slightly better:
"Mixed bag; this island hosts one of the largest petrochemical plants in the Caribbean and has significant environmental problems. Coastlines are stunningly beautiful, whereas inland shows significant signs of mismanaged land and environmental degradation."
"St. Croix has a natural and cultural heritage showcased through its National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge sites."
"Social and cultural integrity the most intact of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Environment was drastically changed in the plantation era -- a part of cultural heritage. Crime is a major problem, as is water quality on many beaches. Could be sustainable if rampant development is kept in check. Hotels mainly big, with a big footprint on the island. Few locals benefit from tourism. A real West Indian island where locals work and live, not a tourism-dedicated playground."
"The addition of the Virgin Islands' first casino in 2001 was a dumb move -- the garish facility draws few tourists, but a fair quantity of locals, who gamble their paychecks away."
And the reviewers agree that St. John's V.I. National Park saved the island from the fate of its sisters, but see problems on the horizon:
"St. John is the best in the Caribbean. Much of its natural environment has been saved by the Park Service and ecologically minded business people. Its long-term prospects, especially for the locals, will depend on good sustainable tourism management."
"The national park has saved this virgin from being tired like St. Thomas. There's almost no trash along the roads, you can hike for a couple of miles without coming across structures, and there are fabulous bays reachable only on foot (or boat); snorkeling is outstanding. Still, several beaches are heavily impacted by cruise ship visitors ferrying over from St. Thomas. The park is understaffed. One-third of the island is not park and is under siege with over-scaled villas. Cruz Bay is losing its ramshackle charm to newer buildings containing shopping malls and real estate developers. Traffic is congested."
Tortola got kudos for its charter industry, but a warning about its development.
"Beautiful island with considerable environmental quality. Threat of development looms."
"Most tourism associated with chartering boats -- highly appropriate and sustainable tourism the way the BVI is regulating it."
"A highly priced island where natives are fiercely proud and protective of their territory."
"Failure to control cruise tourist visits, including permitting up to 3,500 visitors a day, is seriously diminishing quality of life for BV Islanders."
"Tortola is rapidly experiencing the problems of mass-tourism destinations, thereby losing its charm and uniqueness. Blame the cruise ships, poor land-use planning and high-density development. Its sister islands in the BVI are far more attractive."
To view the entire article, click here.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.