June 16, 2005 – Danish tourists are not being stranded in the streets of the Virgin Islands, but, yes, the Danish travel agency – Danish West Indies Travel Agency – which has been funneling tourists from Denmark on flights biweekly appears to have gone belly up.
The company had been credited with filling the gap last year when cruise ships left St. Croix. As recently as April founder Torben Eirby, who said the Danish charter flights had brought $20 million dollars to the Virgin Islands in its first year of existence, was predicting expansion hoping to make the flights weekly instead of twice a month. (See "Danish Charter Perched to Expand Markets, Flights").
Workers were informed on Wednesday night that there was trouble. On Thursday morning several showed up for work at their office at the Caravelle Hotel in Christiansted. They were told they could take their personal possessions, but the office was close.
Four of them sat on bistro patio chairs in the courtyard below the pool at the hotel. They said that was their office now.
"We are going to take care of everyone," said employee Jane Knudsen.
However, none of the employees would comment on issues directly relating to the company. They said they really did not know what was going on and were expecting a press release from Denmark that could be distributed to the local media.
What they said they did know is that an empty plane was coming Saturday to take home the tourists on the islands. The employees said that each of them was promised a seat on that plane. The agency employes four Danes on St. Thomas, three on St. Croix and three local people.
Knudsen said, "I loved it here."
The agency had an unique relationship with the V.I. government. In December last year the government signed a deal with the agency subsidizing it to the tune of a quarter million dollars for the upcoming year.(See "News Brief: V.I. Government Signs New Contract with Danish Charter Company").
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richard said at that time, "The current Danish charter program is a success, and an excellent example of public-private partnership in action."
Vergit Holloway, St. Croix, and Simon Larson, St. Thomas, of the travel agency Stjernedgaard are still waiting for their government subsidy. They said Thursday they have been bringing in tourists to the Virgin Islands for a dozen years. Holloway said, "It is not going to end."
She said the charter flights were a great idea bringing tourists from Denmark directly to the Virgin Islands in 10 hours. Her agency has to book flights through Madrid and it often requires overnight stays and at least 18 hours of travel time.
However, she said that she saw trouble on the horizon. She said many of the charter flights were coming in almost empty and the company was not allowing other travel agencies the opportunity to fill those seats. She said, "For this idea to work, we had to work together."
She said an immediate effect was that a soccer team expected to fly in this week to participate in a University of Virgin Islands soccer tournament had lost their seats.
She said visitors from Denmark are insured, if they include a hotel in their package, but visitors such as the soccer players who were expecting to stay elsewhere might not receive any reimbursement.
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