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Virgin Islands Tourism Marketing: An #EpicFail?

Virgin Islands tourism has been on my mind lately.  I’m always amazed at the numerous ads I always see about Atlantis, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, among others.  Yet, I rarely see any advertising about the US Virgin Islands.  I felt surely, now that I live in Miami I would see more ads for Virgin Islands tourism.  And yes, I have seen more ads.  I think I’ve seen (maybe) five ads for Virgin Islands tourism in six months!

So, I start to wonder if it’s just me.  Maybe I’m missing the commercials.  Maybe there’s a treasure trove of stations, channels and websites showing advertisements for Virgin Islands tourism.  #Seriously

On the Virgin Islands Watch Facebook page, I post a question to see if there are people who might have seen more advertisements than I have.  And, it seems that very few people (like single digits) said they have seen many commercials for Virgin Islands tourism.

But why?

Virgin Islands Toursim – a Department

I didn’t want to simply chuck it up to corruption, or ineptness, or unqualified, or any of the easy excuses.  So, I did a little research.

As an aside, I must give credit to Governor DeJongh.  I would have never imagined being able to find this information on the internet for the Virgin Islands.  And, while there are shortcomings in the information provided I must say: I’m delighted to know that the information is indeed available.  Now, if we could only get the people to READ the info….but, I digress…

In doing my research, I learned some troubling things.  But, they’re so disturbing that I need to check and see: maybe I’m just crazy!

I downloaded the Virgin Islands Government’s FY 2013 budget.  In digging through the documents, it was easy to see the unimportance of Virgin Islands Tourism to the Legislature and the Governor.

It seems to me that tourism in theory should be in the forefront of our minds, in terms of economic development.  We are in a financial crisis of epic proportions.  Not just on the National stage.  It’s not simply a matter of the $10 Million-plus that #Sequestration is said to cost the Virgin Islands.  This is not simply a matter of the 13% loss of gross territorial product (GTP), with the closure of HOVENSA.  This is a matter of us not using our assets.

Virgin Islands Tourism Is Our Asset

Not our only asset.  But, certainly not the least of our assets, right?  It definitely can’t be simply “one component of economic development in the Virgin Islands!”  Especially in the wake of the closure of HOVENSA, which the Governor so frequently bemoans, tourism can’t be ignored – or can it?

I certainly agree, we must have another industry besides tourism.  We cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of the travel industry.  Yet, the excuse of a poor National economy cannot be the accepted answer. theguardian reports that the “World’s super-wealthy spend their riches on luxury travel adventures.”  And, a Director in Tourism at the World Economic Forum states that the “Travel and Tourism Industry (are) Poised for Take-off.”

And, are not the Virgin Islands beautiful?  Do we not coin the Territory as “America’s Paradise?”  If so, certainly EDC benefits for tourism could be…should be more vital than EDC benefits for Financial Services, no?  Shouldn’t our economy be geared to that?

Yet, again there must be another industry besides Virgin Islands tourism for the Territory.  And, there must be a diversity of industries so as to diversify the Virgin Islands economy.  But, right now the Territory is hurting right now and none of those industries have the boon potential as tourism.  Am I missing something?

Virgin Islands Tourism NOT a Priority

Virgin Islands Tourism on Org Chart

At $20.9 Million, Virgin Islands Tourism is allocated about 3% of the total budget for the Virgin Islands.

 When you view the Executive Branch’s organizational chart, you find Clearly, tourism isn’t important to our government.  If it was important, wouldn’t tourism be reflected as a higher priority-share of the budget?

Is it just me?

Isn’t tourism of vital importance to the economic development of the Virgin Islands?

(More on THAT later…I promise.)

All of this to find some insight as to why I don’t see many commercials for Virgin Islands tourism.  But in digging into the budget documents, what I found grew increasingly more disturbing.  Again, I’m no budget expert.  So, I encourage you to view the documents for yourselves.

As I look at the budget specific to Virgin Islands Tourism I find that of their $20.9 Million budget, nearly 84% of the budget ($17.5M) is in non-appropriated funds.  Of the $3.4 Million in appropriated funding, only $650 thousand is earmarked for advertising.  Here’s the irony: Virgin Islands tourism advertising represents a whopping THREE PERCENT of the Tourism Budget.  So in the grand scheme, Virgin Islands Tourism is allocated 3% of the Territorial Budget.  And, Advertising is allocated 3% of the Tourism Budget (.09% of total budget).

Again, clearly Virgin Islands tourism is not a priority for the Legislature and the Executive.  Maybe there’s good reason?  I’d love to hear them…wouldn’t you?

The Virgin Islands must become serious about improving the economy and putting people to work.  And until we’ve cultivated new industries that enable us to diversify our economy, we ought till the soil with the cash cow available to us.

Virgin Islands tourism is that cash cow.  Don’t you think?  Or, do you have another?  If so, let’s go…

Answer the call: Virgin Islands for the Virgin Islanders…those at home and those abroad!TM

Share Your Thoughts!

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