Black Meetings and Tourism

January / February 2018

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B M & T ••• January/February 2018 ••• 17 The U.S. Virgin Islands is beautifully set in the Caribbean Sea and consists of three main islands – St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, as well as other smaller islands. The islands are known for their white sand beaches and clear blue waters making outdoor activities a wel- comed venture. In spite of the two Category 5 storms that hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2017, Beverly Nicholson- Doty, the USVI'S Commissioner of Tourism, remains encouraged and greatly inspired that so many have united and are successfully putting the pieces back together. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria left the islands appearing brown and maimed from the beating they gave; however, healing has already begun and the lush green beauty of the islands is return- ing. As the USVI continues to forge ahead with its recovery and restoration efforts, travelers are finding the islands well suited for weddings and other gatherings of 25 to 50 people. Owners of the larger hotels are beginning their rebuilding and are looking forward to the next 18 to 24 months when they can unveil a new and more enhanced product. Though much damage was caused by the weat- her events, Commissioner Nicholson-Doty has enjoyed seeing the spirit of community rise up as many are participating in volunteer tourism programs. These programs allow fort hose who desire to get involved with the restoration process (locals and trav- elers) to dedicate a few hours, or a few days, doing various projects such as beach clean ups, farming and replanting, or taking supplies to nearby schools in need. Medical professionals are also coming to the islands to assist on their vacations. Such collaborations have proven highly successful and the vacationing volunteers leave enriched with a product and a people they will always remember. Prior to becoming the Commissioner of Tourism for the USVI, a position she has held for nearly 11 years, Nicholson-Doty served as the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tour- ism Association. Both positions have given her great respect for the interdependence of tourism and the other departments that she col- laborates with. She deeply enjoys cultivating these relationships and knows that together they shape tourism and the success of the Territory. The importance of these bonds were wonderfully demon- strated following the hurricanes. Due to the collective efforts of the USVI's tourism partners, much needed assistance came to the community, aiding those affected. Women, children, the elderly and injured were able to communicate via a crisis communications website, which was set up for information and emergency help. Portals that had been put in place made it possible for the cruise lines and airlines to remain in communication, helping visitors' families on the mainland get information concerning their loved ones. "Having collaborated to get these tools in place proved to be an invaluable asset in the midst of our post-storm activities," said Nicholson-Doty. When asked about the importance of the USVI's connection to the African-American market segment, the Commissioner assert- ed: "The African-American market not only has tremendous spending power but African-Americans appreciate the rich cultural heritage of our islands." The islands were once colonized by the Danish who kept great records of the African ancestry that was brought to the islands, as well as to the United States. At Estate Whim REPORTS UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS DURING THE REBUILDING PROCESS "The African-American market not only has tremendous spending power but African-Americans appreciate the rich cultural heritage of our islands." BY VICTORIA HEAD BEVERLY NICHOLSON-DOTY

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