U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (September 26, 2021) – Joseph Boschulte: The official celebration of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Day 2021 (September 27), around the theme “Tourism for Inclusive Growth,” resonates particularly well in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) because of the rich diversity of our peoples and the colorful tapestry of history woven throughout the centuries by the aspirations of several colonial powers who sailed thousands of miles away from their home countries to our shores.
We in the USVI take every opportunity to celebrate our glorious heritage by ensuring our tourism is developed in a way that benefits all people in the Territory and educates visitors to our homeland. Inclusive development also means that the enhancement and conservation of our great ecological assets are very much part of our tourism development. In addition, we preserve and promote relics of colonialism which provide information-rich markers in our development.
The inclusivity of our tourism development approaches is embedded in all that we do because it is the greatest job creator in our islands. Additionally, the inclusivity of our visitor industry makes it our most potent weapon in combating poverty and providing us an effective means of ensuring the socio-economic inclusion of vulnerable groups.
The climatic disasters which lash our Territory occasionally have shown us in graphically tragic terms how they have hit all parts of our communities without discrimination. So, our recovery activities have to be inclusive to be effective and provide us a platform for restoring our lives in the wake of disasters.
Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic posed the biggest challenges our tourism sector has ever confronted, shattering the hospitality sector, which employs so many of our residents:
- Jobs were lost.
- Medical costs piled up.
- The ever-present threat of infection distressed our populace.
Fortunately, our government moved quickly to protect struggling families and worked closely with the private sector to rebuild economic opportunities for our people.
Working with all tourism stakeholders, we also assured those whose plans to visit the Territory were disrupted by the pandemic that our inclusive development strategies for our destination will realize their dreams of relaxing and rejuvenating in pristine Caribbean waters the lush environment of the USVI.
On this World Tourism Day, allow us to extend gratitude to the many people and organizations which have contributed to the success of the restart and resurgence of our bread-and-butter tourism as we continue to balance the importance of protecting lives as well as the livelihoods of Virgin Islanders.