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HomeNewsArchives$250K DUE TOURISM FROM FAILED DANISH TOUR FIRM

$250K DUE TOURISM FROM FAILED DANISH TOUR FIRM

The V.I. Tourism Department could get one-quarter of a million dollars back from its deal with a failed Danish travel company, but only if it files claim to a recent settlement.
Dansk Vestinien Rejser, or Danish West Indies Travel, was a niche-tourism firm founded by Steen Digemose that planned to bring Danish tourists to St. Croix on charter flights beginning in 1999. After the first charter delivered some 350 visitors to the Big Island in February of last year, the company’s charter airline, Laker Airways, was delayed for 53 hours on the second flight of tourists, forcing Digemose into bankruptcy.
The charter flights, direct from Copenhagen, were projected to pump some $20 million into the local economy over two years. Through a contract with Digemose’s company, the Tourism Department kicked in some $250,000 to help fund the program.
On Thursday, Tourism Commissioner Rafael Jackson said the department was looking into the "ways and means" to retrieve the money.
"The services were never rendered but they spent the money," Jackson said.
In an interview Friday, Digemose said that on June 1, his company won a $755,000 settlement from Laker Airways in a Florida court. The amount was equal to three round-trip flights from Copenhagen to St. Croix. Digemose said total claims against his company are estimated at $1.1 million, which includes the Tourism Department’s $250,000.
"The V.I. government has not filed with the (bankruptcy) trustee, as far as I know," he said, adding that creditors who have filed claims are receiving about 70 percent of their money.
The next step in Digemose’s 15-month fight against Laker Airways could be to seek punitive damages, as much as three times the settlement amount, for causing the bankruptcy. Digemose’s lawyers have yet to file suit because it is unclear if Laker Airways has the means to pay. Digemose said the bankruptcy trustee is still waiting on the $755,000 settlement proceeds.
While Digemose's plan to bring his fellow countrymen to the Virgin Islands on weekly flights was widely seen as a sure thing, he is now facing financial turbulence.
"I basically lost everything," he said, even though almost all the charter flights scheduled for 1999 were sold out.
Asked if such a charter tour could work again, Digemose said that a strong U.S. dollar in Europe is keeping most Danish tourists on the continent.
"And I realize that in order for this program to start up again, we have to get money back from Laker," he said.

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