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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesBeauty May Not Be Enough to Keep Tourists Coming

Beauty May Not Be Enough to Keep Tourists Coming

Dear Source:
I recently read the letter from a disgruntled tourist who was here on St. Thomas. In his letter, the tourist complained about the overly aggressive taxi drivers, the expensive and seemingly capricious taxi fares, and the rude and apathetic attitude of the locals. The last line of the letter stated, "It was very apparent that the local people and specifically the taxi drivers and dispatch personnel do not care or even like visitors to their country." Although I was a little offended by the last line because I don't believe that every local fits this characterization, I do concede that he can only comment on his experience. This is not the first letter of this nature that has been written by a tourist, and if we don't get our act together–it won't be the last. In fact, this letter reminds me of a similar one published in the Daily News right after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. In her letter, the disgruntled tourist recounted how badly she was treated while on vacation on St. Thomas and stated that maybe the people of the Virgin Islands would appreciate the tourist dollar now that it was no longer coming in.
It is apparent by this current letter, that we still don't fully appreciate our position as one of the top cruise ship destinations in the Caribbean. If we don't take action now to remedy the causes of these complaints, then we'll lose our position. The Chamber of Commerce took a step in the right direction by overhauling the Barker System (or non-system) downtown–now it's time to overhaul the way taxis do business. First, we must instill that taxi drivers are the first faces that many tourists see–so they must be courteous and leave a good first impression. Secondly, taxis should be prohibited from driving and soliciting on Main Street for two reasons. (1) It delays traffic on Main Street and creates terrible congestion while taxis frequently drive slowly and stop to pick up customers. (2) Tourists DON'T LIKE being harassed while they are trying to enjoy their time (and spend money) down town.
An alternative solution is to have designated taxi stands downtown where taxis would pick up and drop off their passengers. This is a system set up in other premier tourist destinations (like Florence, Italy and New York) and it works well. This would alleviate the congestion on Main Street and tourists could seek out transportation at their leisure without being hassled. To sum up, the way we do business and our attitude is driving tourists away. Yes, St. Thomas is a beauty, and yes this beauty will attract people, but if we don't fix our attitudes–we may find that beauty is not enough.
Vonetta Norman
St. Thomas, V.I.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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