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Tourism Department Requests $3.9 Million Budget

July 16, 2008 — The Department of Tourism came before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, defending its 2009 General Fund budget request of $3.9 million.
The department would also receive $650,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund. The fund, which consists of revenues from the eight-percent hotel occupancy tax, is expected to gross $19 million next year "provided we stay on course and continue our growth," said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
The remaining $18.3 million or so projected for the revolving fund is largely split between the national public relations agency M. Booth and Associates and the J. Walter Thompson national advertising agency, with smaller sums going to several other sales and promotions offices around the world. Some of that money went to ads in national magazines, in airports and in regional television markets. Some was used to participate in travel industry trade shows. One set of TV and print ads offered consumers a $250 airfare credit on trips to St. Croix.
"One of the biggest challenges right now is maintaining the current number of flights to St. Croix as airlines work to cut back and eliminate routes in the current economy," Nicholson-Doty said, suggesting the Legislature approve $1.5 million to subsidize flights to the territory.
"The Virgin Islands are one of a few Caribbean destinations not subsidizing airfare," she said. "With fuel approaching $200 a barrel, this may be a luxury we can no longer afford. … St. Lucia spent in excess of $7 million to retain flights last year. St. Kitts spent $3 million."
Meanwhile, she said, Tourism has been "very aggressive" in fighting to maintain airlift to St. Croix without subsidies.
High fuel prices have one good effect.
"If there is any minor silver lining to the fuel crisis, it's that U.S. travelers are not seeing the Mediterranean, Europe, Vietnam and Asia as quite so attractive with current fuel prices," Nicholson-Doty said.
The territory has seen a 6.3-percent increase in air travel and a one-percent increase in cruise-ship passenger visits. The figures are significant given the stagnant national economy, Nicholson-Doty said, suggesting that Tourism's promotional efforts played a role.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson urged Nicholson-Doty to use St. Croix's unique products and culture as selling points.
"People don't remember their hotel room," he said. "They remember the local guy in the street who helped them out or the local dish they tried for the first time."
As an example, Nelson mentioned Roots Drinks, a small local drink company Nelson was once affiliated with that sells at the La Reine Farmers Market.
"I remember one Ag Fair we made a mint selling these unique drinks made locally," he said. "We sold a lot of seamoss. You know what I told them about its health effects, we don't need to say it here. That is what they want — something unique."
"We believe agro-tourism has a very important connection to our marketing strategy for St. Croix," Nicholson-Doty said. "We would really like to bring the Saturday market into the tourist experience. I believe the connection between our heritage and our agricultural product is an important asset."
The level of detail in Tourism's budget presentation won praise from several senators.
"This is the most transparent budget I've seen," Sen. James Weber III said. "Aside from use for making comparisons, the post-audit is almost unnecessary."
The post-audit is the Legislature's separate, in-house budget analysis for each agency.
In attendance were Nelson, Weber, Sens. Liston Davis, Usie Richards, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James and Basil Ottley Jr. No votes were taken.
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July 16, 2008 -- The Department of Tourism came before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, defending its 2009 General Fund budget request of $3.9 million.
The department would also receive $650,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund. The fund, which consists of revenues from the eight-percent hotel occupancy tax, is expected to gross $19 million next year "provided we stay on course and continue our growth," said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
The remaining $18.3 million or so projected for the revolving fund is largely split between the national public relations agency M. Booth and Associates and the J. Walter Thompson national advertising agency, with smaller sums going to several other sales and promotions offices around the world. Some of that money went to ads in national magazines, in airports and in regional television markets. Some was used to participate in travel industry trade shows. One set of TV and print ads offered consumers a $250 airfare credit on trips to St. Croix.
"One of the biggest challenges right now is maintaining the current number of flights to St. Croix as airlines work to cut back and eliminate routes in the current economy," Nicholson-Doty said, suggesting the Legislature approve $1.5 million to subsidize flights to the territory.
"The Virgin Islands are one of a few Caribbean destinations not subsidizing airfare," she said. "With fuel approaching $200 a barrel, this may be a luxury we can no longer afford. ... St. Lucia spent in excess of $7 million to retain flights last year. St. Kitts spent $3 million."
Meanwhile, she said, Tourism has been "very aggressive" in fighting to maintain airlift to St. Croix without subsidies.
High fuel prices have one good effect.
"If there is any minor silver lining to the fuel crisis, it's that U.S. travelers are not seeing the Mediterranean, Europe, Vietnam and Asia as quite so attractive with current fuel prices," Nicholson-Doty said.
The territory has seen a 6.3-percent increase in air travel and a one-percent increase in cruise-ship passenger visits. The figures are significant given the stagnant national economy, Nicholson-Doty said, suggesting that Tourism's promotional efforts played a role.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson urged Nicholson-Doty to use St. Croix's unique products and culture as selling points.
"People don't remember their hotel room," he said. "They remember the local guy in the street who helped them out or the local dish they tried for the first time."
As an example, Nelson mentioned Roots Drinks, a small local drink company Nelson was once affiliated with that sells at the La Reine Farmers Market.
"I remember one Ag Fair we made a mint selling these unique drinks made locally," he said. "We sold a lot of seamoss. You know what I told them about its health effects, we don't need to say it here. That is what they want -- something unique."
"We believe agro-tourism has a very important connection to our marketing strategy for St. Croix," Nicholson-Doty said. "We would really like to bring the Saturday market into the tourist experience. I believe the connection between our heritage and our agricultural product is an important asset."
The level of detail in Tourism's budget presentation won praise from several senators.
"This is the most transparent budget I've seen," Sen. James Weber III said. "Aside from use for making comparisons, the post-audit is almost unnecessary."
The post-audit is the Legislature's separate, in-house budget analysis for each agency.
In attendance were Nelson, Weber, Sens. Liston Davis, Usie Richards, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James and Basil Ottley Jr. No votes were taken.
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.