Luen Anthony not only contributes to the tourism industry with his one-man tour company, he also works for his fellow residents as a lieutenant with the Virgin Islands Fire Service.
Anthony has owned his tour company, Island Tours, for 14 years. Working as his own boss gives him the freedom of a flexible schedule that allows him to work as a fireman and continue his hobby of powerlifting, a form of competitive weightlifting.
When Anthony first started his tour company, the territory’s cruise industry was thriving with ships in port nearly every day. Even during off-season there was a considerable amount of business, he said.
“I started Island Tours with a small open-air bus and, as time went on, slowly got into a bigger bus. The demand for open-air buses is great in the tourist industry,” Anthony said.
Anthony said the industry has slowed down significantly in the last few years as the recession trickled down to the territory. He said the number of cruise ships, cruise lines and even tourists decreases every year. He noted that even during peak season, the territory will see a few days a week without cruise ships in port.
“At least we still have ships coming in and we can work. It’s not as good as it used to be, but it helps to pay the bills,” he said. “I enjoy dealing with the people. The people are fun and they keep me here more than anything else.”
Despite trying economic times, Anthony said his love for his job as a representative of the Virgin Islands keeps him going. He’s truly a free spirit who values his flexible schedule and the fact that he doesn’t have to punch a clock.
Anthony said his tour not only takes tourists to popular sites on island, but he also educates them on the history and the island itself, and shows them things like local plants.
The tour takes visitors around the island of St. Thomas as it begins south at the Mafolie lookout, then heads north towards Mountain Top and Drake’s Seat. The tour then winds around the east side of the island as tourists visit Mahogany Run Golf Course, Anna’s Retreat, one of the island’s beautiful beaches and Red Hook. The tour ends with a scenic ride past Bolongo Bay Beach Resort and back to the cruise ships.
“I just figured I’d try it and ended up loving doing it,” he said. “It’s hard work, it’s hot, and we get a lot of ‘beat down’ from certain people, but it’s fun.”
Anthony attributes a lot of his success to his personality. He said it takes a big and energetic personality to run a tour company because the aim is for customers to have such a great time they want to come back and bring their friends.
“Great tours come from a great personality,” he said.
While Anthony loves operating Island Tours, he’s also enjoyed working as a fireman for the last 21 years. He said he took on two jobs because he has a family and six children to support. He said he recognizes that the cost of living has gone up and he needs to do whatever is necessary to meet it.
He said his job at the fire department is fun, but different than it used to be because of the downturn in the economy and government. He noted that the 8 percent cut government employees took in 2011 has made a life-risking job that much more difficult.
Now that Anthony is a lieutenant, he is able to supervise an entire firefight – making sure the scene is ready, putting men in and making radio calls for assistance. He said the difference between being a firefighter and a supervisor is that the supervisor tells firefighters what he wants them to do based on past experience.
“After a while, you know what you want to do. You can still make mistakes because you never stop learning in any job. You can still make mistakes, but when guys around you know what they’re doing, it makes my job a lot easier. I work with a good group of guys,” he said.
Anthony graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1984 and went into plumbing for seven years. Eventually, he picked up powerlifting as a hobby and knew he needed a more flexible schedule so he could exercise. He is originally from St. John, but moved to St. Thomas after high school.
Anthony admitted that he doesn’t know where the economy will take him, but he’s confident in his abilities and knows that a positive outlook will pull anyone through.
“I didn’t really have anyone that made me want to do it,” Anthony said of his accomplishments. “It’s just where life took me.”