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HomeNewsArchivesMuch Accomplished, Lots Still Ahead for Hotel and Tourism Association

Much Accomplished, Lots Still Ahead for Hotel and Tourism Association

March 16, 2005 – The message of the 2005 General Membership Meeting of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association was clear: there is strength in unity.
The case was stated most succinctly by Lisa Hamilton, director of marketing for Marriott Frenchman's Reef, as she accepted reelection to the Hotel Association's board of directors, saying "We spend a lot of hours trying to figure out how to steal market share away from each other, when we need to come together and focus on stealing market share away from other destinations."
Graeme Davis, board chairman, touted a number of strategic relationships that have allowed the Hotel Association to expand in strength and numbers in the past year. Among them, Davis named the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, the V.I. Tourism Department and the Caribbean Hotel Association.
But perhaps the best news came from Richard Doumeng, general manager of Bolongo Bay and treasurer for the VIHTA. "The Hotel Association is not in the red," Doumeng said to a round of applause. According to figures in the annual report, the association entered 2005 with a surplus close to $20,000.
Doumeng also discussed with evident pride that the organization's Cooperative Marketing Iniative fund has swelled to over $600,000. Doumeng said the VIHTA is one of the only hotel associations to pool the monetary resources of its members for joint marketing purposes. But Doumeng pointed to the road ahead, saying, "Let's get ourselves together and get people to the territory."
The meeting, held in a Frenchman's Reef ball room, featured a key note address by Berthia M. Parle. Parle is the first woman ever elected to the presidency of the Caribbean Hotel Association, a post she has held since June 2004. She is also general manager of the Bay Gardens Hotel, and the Bay Gardens Inn in St. Lucia.
According to Parle, the challenges faced by the Caribbean tourism industry as a whole are identical to those faced within the territory.
Parle said a primary thrust of the CHA has been to make tourism education available in schools. While she pointed to some recent headway in Jamaica and St. Lucia, there was more than a little frustration in her speech. "Sometimes I think all of the governments are asleep at the wheel," she said, adding, "Your destination's success depends on the quality of the visitors' experience, which in turn is dependent on the quality of service."
Pointing to the larger problem of Caribbean governments not supporting school tourism programs, she said, "Until this region doesn't have to import its skilled labor, the tourism industry as a whole will never be accepted by our communities."
Her audience responded with loud agreement as Parle bemoaned the behavior of taxi associations across the Caribbean. These associations, she said, "continue to behave as if they're a separate entity" because they have the power of numbers. She suggested drivers here and elsewhere need to "improve their attitude, appearance, and knowledge of their island."
"It is easy to get to St. Thomas from the mainland, but very difficult to get around the island once you are here," she said.
Beverly Nicholson, VIHTA president, briefly summarized the association's accomplishments for 2004. Among those she highlighted were the association's support of the Charlotte Amalie High School hotel and restaurant program; a summer employment project that supplied 45 students with first-hand hospitality industry experience; the launch of a brand new Web site, and the success of the Tommy Star Awards Gala. (See "'Mr. Wess' Wins Tommy Star Award of Excellence").

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