Tourism association hears update from V.I.

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ST. THOMAS - Tuesday, the V.I. Tourism Department made its annual presentation at the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association's Destination Symposium.

While Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty shared the usual facts and figures about the last year's successes and the coming year's marketing initiatives, she also invited V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls and V.I. Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. to speak to the industry professionals gathered at the annual conference.

White spoke about the tourism-oriented policing program that puts patrols in the high-traffic tourist areas in town and on the beaches. He said the territory's officers have been trained to be ambassadors for the Virgin Islands by interacting with visitors in a friendly way. He said the officers have completed customer service training and procedures are in place to ensure compliance.

Smalls gave an update on major infrastructure projects and showed artists' renderings of how the Market Square, Main Street, waterfront and Havensight areas will look when the construction is complete.

The two major projects under way right now are the Market Square project - which Smalls said will be completed by this time next year - and the Frenchman's Bay Road project, which started just a few weeks ago.

The design for the Main Street revitalization project is 90 percent done, Smalls said, and he expects going out to bid by the end of 2012.

While many of the projects could be done quicker, the timelines are stretched out to have minimum impact on the territory's tourism industry, according to Smalls. Construction crews will do a lot of the work at night and on days when there are no cruise ships, he said.

The waterways through St. Thomas Harbor recently have been added to the federal highway system, and Smalls said the government will solicit bids for a company to provide regular water transportation from the West Indian Co. dock, to the Charlotte Amalie apron, to Crown Bay.

On St. Croix, the Christiansted boardwalk is about to get a major face-lift, Smalls said. He said $2 million has been earmarked for the project from federal stimulus funds, a $1 million Department of Interior grant and Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for storm damage.

The Christiansted Bypass project will be completed this fall as well, he said.

Deputy Tourism Commissioner Chantal Figueroa shared some working concepts of new advertising campaigns for St. Croix and the territory as a whole.

Nicholson-Doty said the department currently is updating its five-year strategic plan, and she touted the new ambassador program, in which volunteer Virgin Islanders living abroad and in the mainland promote travel to the territory in their own social and work circles.

The territory's marketing plan can be found at

The Destination Symposium brings together booking sites, travel agents, airlines, hotels, and members of the local tourism industry to focus on the territory's tourism product. The group will tour hotel properties and tourist attractions on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email to an online survey conducted by the V.I. Department of Tourism:

- 50 percent of respondents said they stayed five nights or less in the territory.

- 66 percent said they had visited the U.S. Virgin Islands before.

- 50 percent of visitors booking a vacation look online before making a decision.

- 45 percent of visitors said the V.I. met their expectations.

- 93 percent of visitors said they were satisfied with their vacation.

- 53 percent said the territory exceeded expectations.

- 99 percent said they were likely to visit again.

- 72 percent said they were very likely to visit again.

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