Positivity and progress were the order of the day at the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association’s (USVIHTA) Annual General Meeting on May 4 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. As association members came together to honor 40 years of serving the USVI tourism and hospitality community as of 2021, they heard updates from guest speaker Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. as well as the association and its committees.
“Isn’t it a great time to be in the Virgin Islands?” the governor noted before speaking at length about the current state of tourism in the territory as well as ongoing and completed government projects. He also discussed future projects and plans for his administration.
Many of the notable projects Bryan touched on were the ongoing upgrades to both the St. Thomas and St. Croix airports, with plans to not only complete the new parking facility at the Cyril E. King Airport but also to upgrade the departure lounge on St. Thomas and jetways at both airports within the next five years.
He spoke on the future of digital upgrades to the territory, including free internet in public spaces that will assist in tracking and managing tourism data. The governor also touched on infrastructure upgrades as roads and signage are improved, the continued development of Charlotte Amalie, the Waterfront and Crown Bay, work on the Frederiksted dock, restoring artifacts, renewable energy for individuals and businesses, progress on hotels, the Vision 2040 plan, financing and available funds and more.
He noted the territory has 267 capital projects in progress at the moment — $1.8 billion in projects on St. Thomas, $2.2 billion on St. Croix and $200 million on St. John.
“We’re making money available for you,” said Bryan, speaking on small business grants and financing options. “We want you to expand your business. We want you to grow. We need more tourists coming in here.”
Among plans and progress, Bryan acknowledged the difficulties the territory faces such as workforce and housing shortages, transportation fares and the unknown future of the Caneel Bay and Mahogany Run properties.
During the meeting, USVI Hotel & Tourism Association’s members voted for the 2022 Board of Directors with an uncontested slate, welcoming new and returning board members. Scott Derrickson, general manager of Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove, was elected chairman. Derrickson previously served as USVIHTA chairman of the board from 2016-2018. He will follow in the footsteps of outgoing chairman Terri Brown, who served as USVIHTA chairman of the board from 2020-2022.
The meeting also touched on the accomplishments of the association over the last year, updates from members, advocacy, environmental initiatives, educational outreach and challenges faced by the community and industry. Topics varied from efforts to combat sargassum to training opportunities to community fundraising.
“Our tourism product has been in a constant state of evolution for years, and USVIHTA has been an integral part of that process every step of the way – through every challenge and success. We will continue to solidify our relationships with other tourism organizations and the government as we move forward and advocate on behalf of our community, our members and the tourism and hospitality industry,” said USVI Hotel & Tourism Association’s President Lisa Hamilton.
USVI Hotel & Tourism Association thanks co-sponsors — The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas and Oriental Bank — for hosting the meeting and providing breakfast for attendees.