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St. John and Virgin Islands News
Tough talk and post-shutdown relief at Caribbean conference
By Gay Nagle Myers
FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique — News of the resolution ending the partial shutdown of the U.S. government was greeted with a sense of relief by tourism officials attending the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) annual State of the Industry conference here last week.
The U. S. Virgin Islands — St. John, in particular — experienced the shutdown directly, since two-thirds of that island is a national park. Tourists arriving there in the first week of the 16-day shutdown found beaches barred by chains, hiking trails closed and even the visitors center off-limits.
“Fortunately, a deal was struck after the first seven days with the National Park Service, and … the park was reopened to visitors,” said Richard Doumeng, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and owner of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas.
This was not a minor event, he said.
“The livelihood of an entire island was at stake,” Doumeng said. “Trunk Bay [part of Virgin Islands National Park] is a favorite attraction for cruise passengers in particular, and closure of that beach with its underwater snorkeling trail dealt a serious blow to our tourism and had a ripple effect on vendors at the beach, watersports operators, concessionaires near the park and even the ferry operators whose passenger numbers were down between St. Thomas and St. John.”… read more