Recently installed Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., who led the territory's delegation to Seatrade Cruise Global, made the declaration during discussions with cruise line leaders when he also shared news of tourism developments.
Distinct identity for St. Croix
Speaking at a welcome reception hosted by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, Bryan said 'as we build this new Virgin Islands product and we recover from two hurricanes, our main push is to make St. Thomas the premier port in the Virgin Islands, to (solidify) an identity for St. Croix, whether it's in Christiansted with our small cruise ship industry or in Frederiksted with the expansion of our port and what we are doing in (the) town.'
The governor said positioning the USVI as the premier destination in the Caribbean requires continued investment in infrastructure and people. He said it's critical that Virgin Islanders understand the importance of tourism, explaining that the industry's continued contribution to GDP is dependent on high levels of customer service.
To remain competitive, the USVI has embraced public-private partnerships, is looking at creative ways of securing financing, and is examining the addition of new ports of call to the territory's harbors. 'We cannot do that without the support of the FCCA and all our tourism partners, whether they're in aviation or the cruise (sector),' Bryan said.
FCCA welcomes the partnership
'Working with the cruise industry is a commitment. It's a partnership. But together, the economic impact that we deliver to the destinations is unparalleled,' FCCA President Michele Paige said. 'We are not only your friend ... we're your partner,' she told the governor and Commissioner of Tourism Designee Joseph Boschulte during the reception. Developing 'win-win situations,' she added, is critical to the partnership.
While in Miami, Boschulte, chairman of the West Indian Company Ltd. and a board member of the Virgin Islands Port Authority, held several meetings with cruise executives on plans to upgrade the territory's ports and to enhance the visitor experience.
Talks with British Virgin Islands
He also held strategic partnership talks with representatives from the British Virgin Islands, Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism, and Shereen Flax-Charles, the newly appointed junior minister of tourism.
At a travel industry luncheon attended by media, travel agents and meeting planners, the commissioner designee shared developments taking place across the sector, from airlift and accommodations to cruise port developments and arrivals, which have now returned to pre-storm levels.
Boschulte, who appeared on NBC's '6 in the Mix' during his visit, also had appointments with other media.
Showcasing Virgin Islands culture, products
At Seatrade Cruise Global, the USVI delegation displayed the culture of the territory through a live performance by Virgin Islands musician Pressure Busspipe, steel pan music, a mocko jumbie, carnival dancers and Virgin Islands products, ranging from candies and guavaberry to bush tea and pepper sauce.
'The cruise industry is vital to the US Virgin Islands' economy and our future as a tourism destination. Our attendance at Seatrade has increased cruise interest in the US Virgin Islands, and we look forward to positive developments in the future,' Boschulte said.