St. Thomas

St. John

St.Croix

LAWMAKERS UPDATED ON THE STATUS OF THE ECONOMY

Published: May 12, 2021

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Economic Development and Agriculture chaired by Sen. Kenneth L. Gittens, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, and received testimony regarding the status of local businesses and the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Virgin Islands tourism industry. Invited testifiers were officials from the United States Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association and the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce. However, the latter was excused from the meeting due to a medical emergency.

“We are here to discuss the state of the local economy with a specific focus on the private sector in the St. Thomas-St. John District. As a result of the pandemic, the Territory was hit hard due to the total loss of the Cruise Industry and businesses struggled to remain open with restrictions,” Sen. Gittens said. “We must keep in mind that we are a community who is resilient as we continue to rebuild post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”

The Tourism Industry was adversely impacted when the Territory shut down in compliance with the Executive Order issued by Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. during the State of Emergency issued in March 2020; noted Lisa Hamilton, President of the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association who shared the update.

Hamilton testified that the economy declined as restaurants were mandated to cease indoor dining, while only providing patrons with drive-through or takeout service. Moreover, businesses were required to adhere to PPE and sanitation guidelines and provide disposable dishware. Major reconstruction projects such as the Marriot Frenchman Reef also shut down, delaying its reopening. Nonetheless, in response to Sen. Milton Potter’s inquiry regarding the overall management of the pandemic by the Government of the Virgin Islands, Hamilton stated that the Bryan/Roach Administration did a great job despite unforeseen and unexpected challenges caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Lawmakers drilled down on strategies to improve the Virgin Islands Tourism Industry to attract visitors to boost the economy. Hamilton’s recommendations stressed the significance of revitalizing all downtown areas in the St. Thomas-St. John District and the St. Croix District, launching beautification projects to clean up roadsides and beaches, encouraging property owners to maintain the aesthetics of their properties, upgrading the infrastructure, and job opportunities. Additionally, Hamilton noted that providing electronic payments as an option for transportation services, crime reduction, and educating the youths also contributes to improving tourism in the Territory. Sen. Javon James, Sr. suggested that promoting inexpensive interisland traveling through partnerships with the airlines and ferry services also adds to the overall value of the Territory.

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