78.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomeNewsLocal newsStaffing Shortages Plague Tourism Sector

Staffing Shortages Plague Tourism Sector

USVI Hotel and Tourism Association President Lisa Hamilton testifies virtually before the Economic Development and Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. (Screenshot image)

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, over a year later, the tourism industry has emerged from a total shutdown only to be faced with the challenge of inadequate staffing, Lisa Hamilton, president of the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association, told the Senate Economic Development and Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

Once the governor lifted the territory’s “Safer at Home” status and airlift capacity to the U.S. Virgin Islands increased exponentially, travelers began flooding the airports. At the start of March 2021, Hamilton said, the islands experienced an extraordinary demand for accommodations, in part because other Caribbean destinations have remained restrictive toward visitors.

“As a result, staffing is a major issue,” Hamilton said. According to her, the staffing problem is attributed in part to employees who do not wish to come off unemployment because they “have no incentive to return to work because their stimulus checks coupled with additional unemployment benefits are satisfying their financial needs.”

Due to the scarcity of employees, Hamilton said some of the association’s members have resorted to hiring outside the territory, but “for Economic Development Commission beneficiaries who have a requirement that 80 percent of their staff be local, this will present a particular problem unless the Economic Development Commission or the Legislature recognizes the issue and provides relief.”

Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)

To curb the demand for employment in the tourism sector, the association has partnered with the University of the Virgin Islands to create a culinary certification course, which Hamilton said she hopes will quell some of the staffing shortages businesses are facing.

Staffing was not the only tourism-related concern Hamilton had. She told committee members that decades-old issues still wreak havoc on the sector — like the inability to use a credit card to pay taxis and the “unduly complicated and time-consuming” process individuals must go through to start a business in the territory.

“We recently went before the Legislature not too long ago, because there was a bill that mandated electronic payments [for taxis], and the interesting thing about that is that you had eight different public, private testifiers … all supporting the legislation to allow the electronic payments … and for whatever reason, that legislation never made it out of the committee,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes we are a little bit frustrated in our lack of ability to move some of those things forward.”

Additionally, the pandemic has thwarted new business and caused rising costs for construction materials like lumber, which went up 90 percent in the territory over the last three months, according to Hamilton.

“That is going to be a challenge for those that are jumping back into the market now. To renovate and rebuild is going to be a high cost due to the availability of goods,” Hamilton said.

Even anticipated new businesses like Alpha Submarine Adventures, which would have added submarine experiences in the territory, were impacted heavily by the pandemic and could not finalize their financing, Hamilton said. She added that Little Switzerland and Diamonds International have closed several locations since the COVID-19 onslaught.

“As a leading industry in the USVI, second only to government, the losses caused by COVID-19 are widespread and the effects will be felt for years,” Hamilton said.

Sens. Kenneth Gittens, Alma Francis Heyliger, Dwayne DeGraff, Donna Frett-Gregory, Novelle Francis Jr., Javan James Sr. and Milton Potter were present for the hearing. No vote was taken since the purpose of the hearing was to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.





Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
10 hours ago
Virgin Islands Source

Juju & Cece’s Lemonades and Treats is hosting a "Freco and Lemonade" event today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cultured Naturals Body Care located on Company Street in Christiansted, St. Croix.

The business, Juju & Cece’s Lemonades, evolved from a summer project put together by 4-year-old Juliett Reid-Ventura and 3-year-old Gracie Reid-Ventura. #visource #usvi #supportlocalbusiness
... See MoreSee Less

Juju & Cece’s Lemonades and Treats is hosting a Freco and Lemonade event today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cultured Naturals Body Care  located on Company Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. 

The business, Juju & Cece’s Lemonades, evolved from a summer project put together by 4-year-old Juliett Reid-Ventura and 3-year-old Gracie Reid-Ventura. #visource #usvi #supportlocalbusiness

Comment on Facebook

Cute as a button. Darling little princess. Please protect them

Make sure they Mask 😷 up.

Loving and trusting someone is such a risk and i don't wish any woman to be in the same shoes as i was sometime back when I caught my husband red-handed with my own best friend in our own bed. I couldn't believe it when I saw it and my heart started beating so fast and felt like my body is shaking then I ran straight to my elder sister's house. I cried so much and my sister left me to cry and told me it would help ease the pain I was feeling. Then she sat me down and asked me if I still love my husband and I told her yes of course, and she told me that we all learn and grow through mistakes and no one is perfect and told me that if I wanted my man back I should fight for him and never trust friends again.My sister told me to contact profisma+27783320386 who had helped her husband with financial issues and told me he will help me bring my man back. It took me weeks to think about it because we come from a strong religious background but things worsened because I could not even concentrate at work and i got fired, and after that, i remembered what my sister had told me about consulting with him. That's when I contacted him and told everything, he listened, and told me that he will solve all my problems in 48 hrs. Since it was my first time doing this, i could not believe his words just like that but i had to wait until the time he had promised. I was asked to buy materials to help me which I did, we begun the prayer and results were delivered in three days. My husband called me and asked me where I was, and he came straight to me and confessed how my best friend seduced him, and he was sorry to fall into her trap and showed me all the messages my best friend was sending to him and promised never to see her again and promised to love me and only me. That evening he took me to a romantic dinner, Since prophet isma helped me, I got a better paying job than the previous one, my husband is back to the old man I used to know and he loves me so much and does everything to see that am happy. Thank you so much prophet, your spells indeed work. If you're going through struggles, you can text him on WhatsApp +27783320386 or call him

Load more
Print Friendly, PDF & Email