Rotary Club names top tourism official their Person of the Year


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ST. THOMAS - The Rotary Club of St. Thomas II chose V.I. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty as the club's Person of the Year for 2014.

The club honored Nicholson-Doty, who became commissioner in 2007 and currently is serving as the chairwoman of the regional Caribbean Tourism Organization, on Wednesday at the annual luncheon, which took place at the Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort.

Nicholson-Doty has come a long way from when she first entered the industry, starting as a night reservation clerk at the Virgin Isle Hotel, which no longer is in existence.

"I used to think I wanted to be a teacher," Nicholson-Doty said.

The part-time job that she worked while studying hospitality at the College of the Virgin Islands changed her career path.

She went on to become the executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association and later worked to unify the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association. In 2004, Nicholson-Doty was appointed the president of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association, a position never previously held by a paid staff member.

Three years later, Gov. John deJongh Jr. nominated Nicholson-Doty as the commissioner.

"She is a public servant who has headed a reconfiguration and renaissance of one of the most crucial arms of our local government," said Rotarian Mac Davis, who gave a speech Wednesday about Nicholson-Doty's honor.

Davis credited Nicholson-Doty with turning around the approach of the territory's tourism department and its former, costly networking strategies.

When Nicholson-Doty took on the department, the department was "dumping huge amounts of tax dollars into the rental and staffing of enormously expensive office spaces in major cities throughout the continental United States and elsewhere," Davis said.

She decided to centralize the department, pooling the resources locally, and then sending out staff to network with agents and industries in the states and elsewhere.

"It has worked like a proverbial charm. Arrivals of tourists, by plane and by boat, held steady through the Great Recession of 2008, and since 2012, we have seen the highest levels of air and cruise passenger traffic to our islands in more than a decade," Davis said.

Nicholson-Doty also has worked with airlines to expand service to and from the islands, and also has strengthened the ties between the islands and Denmark, which has an extensive colonial history in the territory.

"You can't accomplish anything single-handedly," Nicholson-Doty said, giving much of the credit to the team that she built since becoming commissioner.

Nicholson-Doty, who said that much of her own strength comes from her faith and her relationship with her family, said that she feels that her and her team essentially all have the same job: to make the tourists feel welcome.

"It's the interactions with the people that makes those incredible experiences," she said. "That's where the magic comes from."

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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