U.S. Virgin Islands: ‘Come back home’

By Jasminee Sahoye

Beverly Nicholson-Doty
Beverly Nicholson-Doty

If you’re into sailing, looking for a bacchanal, a getaway, shopping, a culinary experience, it’s all in the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, says Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.

She was in Toronto to promote the island as a tourism destination of choice and to encourage Canadians and the Caribbean Diaspora to visit the three-island vacation spot.

Speaking directly to the Diaspora, Nicholson Doty said Caribbean people travel for cultural festivals, adding that each of the three islands hosts its own carnival.

With a population of 110,000, the U.S. Virgin Islands has almost 55,000 people who were born there but live elsewhere.

The tourism commissioner issued a call to “come back home.” She said the Virgin Islands is known as “a transit port,” adding that “we have a mix of people from around the Caribbean and we want you to come to the Caribbean.”

The former chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization said there are pockets of nationals from islands such as St. Lucia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

“One very important thing, as a very tourism dependent region, I think it’s important for us to support the region as a whole, so bring your children home, let them see their roots, get acquainted with family and see the culture … there are so many people that have lived outside the region; they’ve had children that have been born here in Canada and it’s important for them to get in touch with their roots,” explained Nicholson-Doty.

She talked about the difference experiences of each island. For example, the oldest rum has been manufactured on St. Croix for over 400 years by the same family. In less than two months, the 16th century port in St. Thomas will be reopened and soon they’ll open the sailing and yachting industry.

Despite the fact there is no direct flight from Canada to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Department of Tourism commissioner has had discussions with airlines here. For now anyone interested in a trip will have to travel from Canada via Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte or New York.

Speaking about a U.S. family who fell ill as a result of a pesticide used at a resort, Nicholson-Doty said it was an isolated incident and their “hearts and prayers go out to the family for a speedy recovery. Any incident of this type, one is too many.

“We want to make sure we are working on every measure that so nothing like this happens again.”