April 02, 2009

US Virgin Islands April Events, Things To Do, Specials and more

Tons of new stuff below the fold -

Support Art, Value Our Restaurants (SAVOR), St. Thomas
Four art galleries and four of St. Thomas' most popular restaurants are partnering for SAVOR, a new event taking place on the first Thursday of each month. Guests may visit galleries open until 8 p.m., where participating restaurants will be supplying appetizers and evening specials. Gallery-restaurant collaborations include David Hill's Gallery and Amalia Cafe; Gallery St. Thomas and Herve Restaurant and Wine Bar; Mango Tango Seaside Art Gallery and Grande Cru Restaurant and Wine Bar; and Seven Minus Seven Art Alternative Space and Agave Terrace Restaurant. For more information, call (340) 715-2789.

"Jesus Christ Superstar," Pistarckle Theatre, St. Thomas
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera, directed by Marc Fellnererez, continues at the Pistarckle Theatre. Remaining performances will take place at 8 p.m. on April 3 and 4, and at 2 p.m. on April 4 and 5. For more information, call (340) 775-7877 or visit www.pistarckletheater.vi.

The Developing World, St. John Film Society
The St. John Film Society's film series takes place on the first Tuesday of each month at Sputnik in Coral Bay. On April 7, guests are invited to join the society for a feature presentation of "The Garifuna Journey," produced by local filmmaker and film society founder, Andrea Leland. "Play, Jankunu Play," a short film about the Garifuna Wanaragua Ritual of Belize by Oliver N. Greene Jr., will precede the feature presentation. For more information, and to stay updated on future screenings, call (340) 715-9899, or visit www.stjohnfilm.com.

"Arts Alive" Concert, Tillett Gardens, St. Thomas
As part of the Arts Alive concert series, the Tillett Gardens will feature the Marian Anderson String Quartet on April 8 and will host a fundraiser entitled "Outside the Box," featuring Violinist Brett Omara on April 17. A prix fixe dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. before both shows, which begin at 8 p.m. The Tillett Gardens' Arts Alive Concerts feature over 100 performances of the finest music performed in a variety of genres by internationally acclaimed musicians. For more information, call (340) 775-1929 or visit www.tillettgardens.com.

"Art Thursdays," Christiansted, St. Croix
At 5 p.m. on April 9, visitors are invited to join the fun when Christiansted businesses including art galleries, retail shops and restaurants, stay open late for a series of gallery walks. Galleries include: Crucian Gold, Danica Art Gallery, Designworks, D&D Studio, The Goldworker, ib designs, Maria Henle Studio, Maufe Gallery, Watch Your Step Art Studio and Yellow House Gallery. Guests are encouraged to explore the art venues, shop and enjoy dinner and drinks in Christiansted. For more information, visit www.gotostcroix.com/art/index.php.

Candlelight Concert Series, Whim Plantation, St. Croix
On Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m., the St. Croix Landmarks Society's "Candlelight Concert Series" will feature Tod Bowermaster on Horn and Vera Parkin on Piano. The Whim Plantation's series includes renowned classical music performances under a candlelit chandelier in the Whim Plantation Museum Greathouse. Tickets are $35 for the Friday show, $45 for the Saturday show and include a champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception with the musicians. For more information, call (340) 772-0598.

The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Reichhold Center for the Arts, St. Thomas
At 4 and 7 p.m. on April 11, the Reichhold Center will entertain young children with a performance based on the popular Flat Stanley children's series. For more information, visit www.reichholdcenter.com.

Virgin Islands Carnival, St. Thomas
The energy in vibrant St. Thomas culminates from April 12 through May 2 during Virgin Islands Carnival, now is in its 57th year. Festivities will include irresistible cuisine, spirited pageants and rousing parades. This year's Carnival is themed "Echoes Through Time," and the USVI Department of Tourism has partnered exclusively with a U.S.-based tour operator to offer a USVI Carnival Package to visitors interested in experiencing the festivities first-hand. Go to the "Special Promotions" section below to learn more about the Carnival package. For more information about VI Carnival on St. Thomas and to view a full schedule of events, visit www.vicarnival.com.

St. Croix Food & Wine Experience
This annual series of culinary events, hosted by the St. Croix Foundation, is quickly becoming one of the most outstanding food and wine celebrations in the Caribbean. The events take place from April 14-18 and include gourmet dinners, wine tastings from celebrated vintners, wine seminars, a wine auction and an island-wide culinary competition called "Taste of St. Croix." For more information, visit http://stcroixfoodandwine.com.

"Proper Pruning Techniques," Grow and Learn, St. Croix
Part of the St. George Village Botanical Gardens' series of hands-on workshops, this month's event, "Proper Pruning Techniques," will take place on April 17 in the Pavilion at the Bodine Visitors' Center from 3-5 p.m. Dave Janas, from the New York Botanical Garden, will demonstrate proper pruning techniques. Rates are $5 for members and $15 for visitors. For more information, call (340) 692-2874 or visit www.sgvbg.org.

Sunset Jazz, St. Croix
Sunset Jazz is a Frederiksted Economic Development Association (FEDA) event featuring an impressive roster of local and international jazz musicians on the third Friday of each month. This month's event will take place on Friday, April 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the beach right next to the fort in Frederiksted (across from the ball park). Admission is free and families are welcome. Food and drinks will be on sale and concert-goers are urged to bring their own folding chairs or blankets to spread on the grass. For more information, call (340) 772-0069.

Green Building House Tour, St. John
As the final event in the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park's 2009 Seminar Series, on April 18 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., St. John School of the Arts invites guests to tour island homes that maintain alternative, eco-friendly living. The tour will be hosted by St. John architect Rob Crane, one of the founders of Island Green Building Association (IGBA). Available to a group of up to 20 people, the seminar rates are $30 for members and $35 for visitors. For more information, and to view additional seminars, visit www.friendsvinp.org.

"Fancy Flowers," Second Saturdays, St. Croix
Part of the St. George Village Botanical Gardens' series of hands-on workshops, on April 18, from 9 a.m. to noon, Second Saturdays presents "Fancy Flowers." Participants will learn how to collect flowers for preservation, construct their own plant press and dry and preserve flowers. They will then use preserved flowers to decorate their own craft projects. There is a $5 per person charge for the workshop. For more information, call (340) 692-2874 or visit www.sgvbg.org.

Weekly Events

West Indian Style BBQ & Floor Show, St. Croix
Every Thursday evening, the Divi Carina Resort and Casino hosts an authentic West Indian Style BBQ & Floor Show with a steel pan band, a broken bottle dancer and Mocko Jumbies. Buffet opens at 6 p.m.; entertainment begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28 per person and $17.50 for children under 12. For more information, call (340) 773-9700 x 727.

Live Jazz, St. Croix
Enjoy live music from the gazebo and delightful dinner specials at Sand Castle on the Beach in Frederiksted every Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Experience "Iguana Lounge" for hot and cold tapas with vibrant sunsets, trade winds and freshly prepared foods. For more information, call (340) 772-1205 or visit www.sandcastleonthebeach.com.


Auberge Resorts to Manage Pond Bay, St. John
Auberge Resorts, owners and operators of award-winning luxury resorts and private residence clubs, recently announced that they would assume the hospitality management of Pond Bay, FOLIO Collection's new private residence club on St. John, opening in December 2009. Designed as an intimate village blending contemporary and Caribbean influences, Pond Bay is set on 15 acres of beachfront property overlooking Chocolate Hole Bay, and features 50 three- and four-bedroom cottages and villas in hillside, pond-side and beachfront settings. Amenities include a beachfront swimming pool, a beach club, a new Auberge 75-seat restaurant and a 10,000-square-foot destination spa and fitness center. Personal services include pre-arrival shopping, concierge and 24-hour room service, wine storage, babysitting and shuttle service to nearby Cruz Bay. For more information, visit www.aubergeresorts.com.

Visiting Artists at Maho Bay Camps, St. John
The month, visiting artists Michael Egan and David and Melanie Leppla from Vermont will assist full-time resident glass artists in leading classes at Maho Bay. The art program is available to children and adults alike, and classes range from ceramics to recycled glass stamping. For more information, call (340) 776-6226 or visit www.maho.org.

N2 The Blue Now Offering Guided Snorkel Trips to the West End, St. Croix
Located a quarter-mile north of the Frederiksted Pier, N2 The Blue is now offering guided snorkel tours to the top snorkel spots on St. Croix's west end. The company's beginner special, good through June 1, 2009, is priced at $20 per person, or $30 per person if snorkel gear is needed. For more information, visit www.snorkelingstcroix.com.

Updates at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, St. Thomas
From menu updates to special commendation from Virgin Islands Daily News, Wyndham Sugar Bay is full of action this month:

  • Sugar Bay Express
    Wyndham's resort-style room service, Sugar Bay Express, begins this month. The "Express Breakfast" includes fresh-baked muffin, coffee cake, mixed fruit and yogurt and is served from 7 a.m. to11:30 a.m. The "All Day Express" includes sandwiches, salads, pizza, chips and cookies, and is served from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Beverages such as caffe latte, juices, vitamin water, S. Pellegrino water, and others will be available all day.

  • New Manor House Breakfast Menu
    The new breakfast menu at the Manor House, now features a la carte items in addition to the daily breakfast buffet. A la carte items include everything from eggs Benedict and fresh fruit to muffins, cold cereal and banana fritters

  • Virgin Islands Daily News Honor
    Journeys Spa at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa and the Wyndham Sugar Bay Banquet Hall were voted best in the USVI by readers of the Virgin Islands Daily News.

    For more information, call (340) 777-7100 or visit www.wyndham.com/hotels/STTSB/main.wnt.

    New Programs and Catered Events at Coral World, St. Thomas
    Coral World Ocean Park and Petit Pump Room Catering now boast five venues suitable for hosting events. With access to all of Coral World's spectacular exhibits, guests can mingle amongst the splendor of the tropical marine life. Recent additions to the park include the Sea Lion Meet & Greet Program ($76 for adults and $67 for children) and the Sea Lion Painting Program ($96 for adults and $87 for children). For more information, visit www.coralworldvi.com.

    Elvet Carty Promoted to Head Chef, Herve Restaurant & Wine Bar, St. Thomas
    St. Thomas native Elvet Carty, who trained in Europe with renowned chef Michael Roux and has been with Herve Restaurant for over a year, was recently promoted to Head Chef. For more information, or to make reservations, call (340) 777-9703 or visit www.herverestaurant.com.

    Special Promotions

    "A Taste of St. Croix" Package, Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort & Casino, St. Croix
    Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort will host "Taste of St. Croix", the culinary competition that takes place on April 16 during the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience, and will offer a specially priced travel package in honor of the event. Valid for travel from April 11-18, guests who purchase the package pay $150 per night based on a three-night minimum stay. Event tickets cost an additional $85 per person. The package also includes 15 percent off meals at all restaurants participating in the Taste of St. Croix culinary competition. For more information, call (877) 773-9700 or visit www.divicarina.com.

    "Caribbean Spice & Everything Nice," Hotel Caravelle, St. Croix
    Valid for travel between April 14 and 18, Hotel Caravelle's "Caribbean Spice & Everything Nice" package includes two tickets to every event for St. Croix Food & Wine Experience. The package includes dinner at Government House prepared by Iron Chef Kevin Rathbun, four wine seminars, tickets to A Taste of St. Croix and more. Priced at $4749, the package includes five-night accommodations at Hotel Caravelle. For more information, call (800) 524-0410 or visit www.hotelcaravelle.com.

    "Have Your Cake and Eat it Too" at Hotel Caravelle, St. Croix
    Guests who stay at Hotel Caravelle and support any of the participating local St. Croix events, including Sunset Jazz and Art Thursdays, may enjoy a complimentary Tortuga rum cake when they book a three-night stay. Rates at Hotel Caravelle start at $150 from now until April 14, 2009. Rates from April 15 to December 14, 2009 start at $138. Situated on the water in the historic town of Christiansted, Hotel Caravelle is within walking distance of galleries, historic buildings, restaurants and boutique shops in and around Fort Christiansvearn. A mixture of European elegance and Caribbean charm, most of the hotel's 43 rooms feature ocean views. For more information, call (800) 524-0410 or visit www.hotelcaravelle.com.

    Golf in Paradise, The Palms at Pelican Cove, St. Croix
    This season, The Palms at Pelican Cove is offering guests two great Golf Packages to choose from. The 5-Rounds package starts at $575 per person from now until May 1, 2009, and includes five rounds of golf with shared cart at The Buccaneer Golf Course; private round-trip airport transfers; a welcome bottle of Cruzan Rum and Coke; Club storage; three logoed balls and a bag tag. The 3-Rounds package starts at $355 per person from now until May 1, 2009, and includes three rounds of golf with shared cart at The Buccaneer Golf Course plus all the same added features as the 5-Rounds package. For both of these packages, the room rate is not included, and the package is not transferrable. Also, 18 holes cannot be split into two rounds of nine holes. For more information, or to add the Golf in Paradise Package to any of the hotel's room categories, call (800) 548-4460, email info@palmspelicancove.com or visit www.palmspelicancove.com.

    Passion Package at The Palms at Pelican Cove, St. Croix
    Guests looking for a special place to escape for a honeymoon or a romantic getaway with a loved one can indulge in The Palms Passion Package. The package includes Deluxe Ocean View accommodations including all taxes, private round trip airport transfers; a champagne, fruit and cheese basket in-room; beachside breakfast for two on the first day; one beachside dinner for two, including three courses and wine, on an evening of choice; a sunset sail for two; half-day sail to Buck Island; 60-minute couples massage in-room or on the beach; one-day car rental or Island Tour; an "intro to diving" class in the pool, and his and hers Palms polo shirts.

    For guests staying on-property through April 15, 2009, a seven-night stay starts at $2475, while a five-night stay costs $1875. Guests visiting anytime from April 1 to December 19, 2009 enjoy a seven-night stay for $1875 or a five-night stay for $1450. For more information, call (800) 548-4460, email info@palmspelicancove.com or visit www.palmspelicancove.com.

    "Spring Getaway," Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, St. Thomas
    Featuring 40 percent off its all-inclusive room rates for stays through April 19, Wyndham's Spring Getaway package rates start at $461 per room per night for two adults, based on a three-night minimum stay. The offer includes unlimited food and drinks, entertainment, access to non-motorized water activities and the supervised kids' club. Children ages 3-12 stay, play and eat free off the kid's menu, when sharing a room with their parents. Rates for children ages 13-17 who stay in their parents' room, start at $95 per child, per night. Rates are subject to availability. For more information, call (340) 777-7100 or visit www.wyndhamsugarbay.com.

    "Free Nights in Paradise," McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas, St. Thomas
    McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas is offering "Free Nights in Paradise" on villa rentals booked and completed by December 18, 2009. Guests who book seven nights pay for six, while guests who book ten nights pay for eight at over 100 participating villas. In addition, there's still time left to take a luxurious Spring escape at The Ritz-Carlton Club(R) in St. Thomas. McLaughlin Anderson is offering seven-nights for the price of five nights on bookings made and completed by April 25, 2009.

    The "Free Nights in Paradise" offer is valid for new rentals only; holidays excluded. The offer is not to be used in conjunction with any other offers or discounts. For more information, call (800) 537-6246, email reservations@mclaughlinanderson.com, or visit www.mclaughlinanderson.com.

    Commission for Add-On Wedding Packages, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, St. Thomas
    Bolongo Bay Beach Resort is rewarding travel agents with 10 percent commission for three add-on wedding packages when booking their clients for a minimum of five nights at the resort. The three wedding packages -- Barefoot on the Beach, Paradise Wedding and Heavenly Days Fantasy Wedding - were designed with key ingredients in mind that provide the perfect mix of romance set against an intimate Caribbean backdrop:

  • "Barefoot on the Beach Wedding" Package
    For $1,000, in addition to the nightly room rate, guests receive the services of a wedding coordinator and clergyman; ceremony; a bottle of champagne with two keepsake flute glasses; Bolongo bride and groom T-shirts, and witnesses.

  • "Paradise Wedding" Package
    For $1,675, in addition to the nightly room rate, the package features the services of a wedding coordinator and clergyman; ceremony; decorated arch; services of a professional photographer; wedding album with 72 photographs (4x6) with negative ownership; bouquet and boutonniere; a bottle of premium champagne with two keepsake flute glasses; and witnesses.

  • "Heavenly Days Fantasy Wedding"
    Starting at $3,000 for up to 20 people, this two- hour sunset wedding cruise takes place aboard the resort's 53-foot catamaran and includes the services of a wedding coordinator and clergyman; ceremony; services of a professional photographer for one hour; wedding album with 72 photographs (4x6) with negative ownership; bouquet and boutonniere; fresh vegetable crudites; assorted fruit and cheese tray; and an open bar including champagne. Additional guests (up to maximum of 49 people total) cost $55 per person.

    Bolongo Bay will also place a welcome amenity (either a bottle of Bolongo rum or wine) in clients' rooms on behalf of the travel agent at no cost to the agent. For information about Bolongo's wedding packages, contact Lorie Leonard, special events, at (800) 449-1577 or weddings@bolongobay.com. For more information on Bolongo Bay, call (340) 775-1800, email reservations@bolongobay.comor visit www.bolongobay.com.

    20 Percent off All-Inclusive Plan, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, St. Thomas
    In honor of being named one of the "Top 10 All-Inclusive Beach Resorts" by Sherman's Travel, the resort is offering a 20 percent discount off nightly rates for its all-inclusive plan for all reservations (minimum of three nights) made through April 30, 2009 for travel from April 1-December 22, 2009. Through the promotion, nightly All-Inclusive rates start at $506 per room through April 30, 2009; $439 per room from May 1-August 31, 2009; $408 per room from September 1-October 31, 2009; and $439 per room from November 1-December 22, 2009. Starting rates quoted are per room, per night, based on double occupancy and do not include $5 per day energy surcharge. For more information, call (340) 775-1800, email reservations@bolongobay.com or visit www.bolongobay.com.

    "Summer Dive Special" at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, St. Thomas
    For travel from May 1 - October 31, 2009, Bolongo Bay's "Summer Dive Special" is offering each visitor accommodations for five nights in an oceanview room at the resort, plus six dives at the St. Thomas Diving Club, the five-star PADI training facility located at Bolongo Bay - all for $700. Guests taking advantage of this offer will also receive complimentary use of non-motorized watersports, including snorkel gear, paddle boats, sunfish sailboats, windsurfing equipment and kayaks. For more information, call (800) 524-4746, email reservations@bolongobay.com or visit www.bolongobay.com.

    "Free Nights and More" at Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Beach Resort, St. Thomas
    Guests of Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott who travel now through December 1, 2009 and book a six-night minimum stay will receive daily breakfast for two and two of these nights free of charge. This offer is equivalent to a savings of 33 percent, with rates from $327 - $506 U.S. dollars. For more information, call (340) 776-8500 or visit www.marriott.com.

    "Reconnect" Wedding Package, Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas
    For weddings booked between April 1 and June 30 and held between May 1 and December 20, 2009, the Ritz-Carlton is offering a free wedding ceremony, plus a free three-night anniversary stay for 2010 for wedding groups who book at least 25 rooms based a three-night minimum stay. Other features include free breakfasts and resort credits of $110-200 a day. For more information, call (800) 241-3333 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com.

    "Caribbean Splendor" at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas
    Through October 31, 2009, guests are invited to indulge in the romance of the USVI with the Ritz-Carlton's Caribbean Splendor package, starting at $564 per night for three nights. Features include:

  • Overnight accommodations in an ocean view room

  • Sunset Sail or Half Day Snorkel for two on the Lady Lynsey ($160 retail)

  • 50-minute spa treatments for two ($250 retail)

  • Daily breakfast for two at Bleuwater ($186 retail)

  • Seven-course tasting dinner for two at Bleuwater restaurant ($194 retail)

  • Gratuity for all services listed on this package only

    For more information, call (800) 542-8680 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com.

    "Family Adventure" at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas
    Families can escape to St. Thomas to spend quality time with the Ritz Carlton's Family Adventure package, starting at $489 per night, based on a three-night minimum stay and available through October 31, 2009. The offer includes:

  • Overnight accommodations in a resort or ocean view room

  • Lady Lynsey Afternoon Snorkel Sail or Sunset Sail for four

  • One Day in Ritz Kids or children's sailing lessons for two

  • $50 daily credit at Sails restaurant

    For more information, call (800) 542-8680 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com.

    Reduced Rates at the Inn at Villa Olga, St. Thomas
    St. Thomas' 12-room Inn at Villa Olga has reduced its rates up to $70 per night for travel throughout 2009, offering rates between $85 and $125 per room, per night. Through April 30, 2009, harbor view rooms are priced at $100 and ocean view rooms at $125 (each a savings of $70). From May 1 - December 22, 2009, harbor view rooms are priced at $85 and ocean view rooms at $110 (each a savings of $65). All rates quoted are per room, per night and do not include the 15 percent tax and service charge. Additionally, guests staying at Villa Olga may use the facilities at the hotel's sister property, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, including beach chairs, sunfish sailboats, kayaks, wind surfing equipment and aqua tricycles. For more information, or to book reservations, call (800) 524-4746 or (340) 642-0395, or email villaolga@bolongobay.com or reservations@bolongobay.com. Visit the Inn at Villa Olga's Web site, at http://www.bolongobay.com/VillaOlga.htm.

    Celebrate Carnival in the U.S. Virgin Islands
    Travelers interested in visiting the USVI during any one of its three Carnival celebrations can book the USVI Carnival Package through Alken Tours, an African American-operated travel wholesale firm with offices in New York, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Alken Tours is the exclusive provider of the package, which includes a 4-night minimum stay complete with a Carnival Survival Kit (T-Shirt, towel, bottle of rum, whistle, schedule of events, disposable camera), $50.00 per person certificates for local attractions and access to a VIP Carnival Party. The package is valid for VI Carnival on St. Thomas, which occurs April 12 through May 2; St. John Festival, which takes place from June 1 to July 4 and St. Croix's Carnival, known as the Crucian Christmas Festival, which begins December 5, 2009 and ends January 2, 2010. For more information or to book the package, call Alken Tours at (718) 856-7711.

    USVI Department of Tourism Introduces Sizzlin' Sampler
    The U.S. Virgin Islands invites travelers to experience everything that St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas have to offer this summer --from sea trekking to golf--while stretching their dollars with the Sizzlin' Sampler package.

    The package includes a complimentary fourth night, $300 air credit, $50 worth of certificates for attractions, a $50 dining certificate and a $500 coupon booklet containing retail special offers. The Sizzlin' Sampler is valid for bookings made from March 15 to October 15, 2009 for travel between April 15 and October 31, 2009 and is based on a four-night minimum stay.

    Hotels participating in the Sizzlin' Sampler include: The Westin St. John; The Buccaneer, Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, Chenay Bay Beach Resort, Club St. Croix, Colony Cove, Company House Hotel, Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort, Frederiksted Hotel, Hibiscus Beach Resort, Holger Danske Hotel, Hotel Caravelle, King Christian Hotel and Sand Castle on the Beach on St. Croix; Anchorage Beach Resort, Best Western Carib Beach, Best Western Emerald Beach; Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Crystal Cove, Marriott Frenchman's Reef, Pavilions and Pools, Point Pleasant Resort, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, Sapphire Beach Resort, Sapphire Village, Secret Harbour Beach Resort, Windward Passage Hotel and Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa on St. Thomas.

    The Sizzlin' Sampler applies to new bookings only. Reservations for this promotion can be made through a number of tour operators, including Apple Vacations, BookIt.com, Certified Vacations Group, CheapCaribbean, Classic Vacations, Costco Travel, Enjoy Vacations, Expedia Inc., Island Resort Tours, Libgo Travel, The Mark Travel Corporation, MLT Vacations, Orbitz Worldwide, Pleasant Holidays, Total Vacations, Travel Impressions, Travelocity, US Airways Vacations and Vacation Express.

    For more information about the United States Virgin Islands, go to VisitUSVI.com. When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel - including on-line check-in - making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.

    Posted by afinta at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

    May 16, 2007

    V.I. Tourism Gets Breath of Fresh Air

    The St. Thomas Source is reporting:

    "May 15, 2007 -- Upbeat, enthusiastic and excited would describe the atmosphere at the 14th annual USVI Destination symposium, which was held Tuesday at Frenchman’s Reef Marriott. “Do you know what that is in the air?” asked Rik Blyth. “That is the smell of fresh air.” Blyth is president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association and acted as emcee for the symposium. He said that that there was a whole new feel to the event, primarily because, “We are encouraged by the vision of our new administration and hope to be a partner in many programs designed to improve and promote our tourism product.” That feeling was held by many of the 150 attendees who warmly applauded Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who said of the association, “They have spearheaded this remarkable event from its inception and continue to make a significant contribution to the growth of our tourism product and within the travel industry.”

    More here.

    Posted by afinta at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)

    May 15, 2007

    YES! YES! YES!

    Our good friend and former colleague Beverly Nicholson Doty is the new head of the Department of Tourism. This can only mean good things for the USVI. From Travel Weekly:

    USVI tourism commissioner lays out plans first year in office (05/14/2007)

    St. Croix a top priority; tourist offices to go 'virtual' with mainland closures

    By Gay Nagle Myers

    Beverly Nicholson Doty, the commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands since her nomination by the governor and approval by the USVI legislature in March, hit the ground running.

    Her unofficial "coming-out party" is set for May 15 when she addresses tour operators, hoteliers and other private-sector partners as well as government representives attending the 14th Annual U.S. Virgin Islands Destination Symposium in St. Thomas where she will detail her top objectives and goals.

    "As head of the Dept. of Tourism, I am mandated by law to increase overall visitor count, increase overall spending by visitors, develop relationships with the private sector and form alliances where we can partner together," Nicholson Doty said. "The legislature is very precise on this. In addition, we must develop branding for St. Croix and work to increase visitor numbers specifically on that island."

    Good luck to Beverly and all of her new staff.

    More here, but subscription (free) is required.

    Posted by afinta at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

    March 16, 2006

    Crapo donations questioned

    Associated Press
    March 15, 2006

    BOISE – U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, received more than twice as much money in donations from people in the U.S. Virgin Islands than from his home state last year, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

    That prompted the Senate Majority Project, a Democratic interest group, to question Crapo's involvement in the islands, which have a population of 110,000 people.

    Crapo had received $39,000 from Virgin Islands residents by the end of the 2005-06 election cycle, compared with just under $20,000 from Idaho residents.

    Lobbyists for the islands are trying to reduce the number of days a person must remain on the islands to be considered a resident, an issue that could have tax benefits.

    Currently, under a 2004 act of Congress, individuals must spend at least half the year in the Virgin Islands to be considered a resident for tax purposes. Lobbyists would like to see that reduced to an average of 122 days per year over a three-year period.

    Crapo, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is looking into the issue.

    "He's very much involved in the philosophy states should be able to determine states' business," Crapo spokeswoman Susan Wheeler told the Idaho State Journal. "And in the same vein, territories should be able to determine the tax benefits that bolster business and the economy."

    Wheeler said that encouraging economic development in the islands would help reduce an illegal drug and slave trade.

    "It's in the United States' best interest to have the Virgin Islands prosper," she said.

    Posted by afinta at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

    Virgin Islands Donors Invest In Key Senators

    BY MEGHAN CLYNE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
    March 8, 2006

    WASHINGTON - Concern is mounting that Senate support for the U.S. Virgin Islands' efforts to reopen a tax loophole is being won with more than $235,000 in campaign contributions.

    Five senators identified by USVI representatives as allies in their campaign - Senator Crapo, a Republican of Idaho; Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican of Oregon; Senator Baucus, a Democrat of Montana; Senator Thomas, a Republican of Wyoming, and Senator Talent, a Republican of Missouri - have each received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from scores of USVI residents in the last year, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

    Lobbyists for the USVI said yesterday that the donations resulted from fund-raisers held by the lawmakers during trips to the Virgin Islands.

    As The New York Sun reported last week, the USVI is currently campaigning for Congress and the Treasury Department to loosen restrictions imposed in 2004 on the territory's Economic Development Commission - a program designed to spur investment in the territory with tax incentives for individuals and businesses.

    As the Sun reported in 2003, the program's tax breaks were taken up by some of America's top money managers - including Richard Driehaus and Jeffrey Epstein, who keep high profiles in Chicago and New York but declare the USVI as their place of residence for tax purposes. The EDC loophole allowed some wealthy Americans to dodge almost 90% of their federal income tax bills.

    According to FEC records, Mr. Driehaus last year donated, as a USVI resident, $2,000 each to the campaigns of Messrs. Crapo, Thomas, and Baucus.

    In the October 2004 American Jobs Creation Act, Congress moved to curb tax avoidance abuse by stepping up the residency and income eligibility requirements for the tax breaks. In January, the Treasury Department codified the residency requirement by stipulating that individuals must spend at least 183 days a year in the USVI to be considered residents for tax purposes.

    The USVI is now engaged in a campaign to get Congress to reduce the physical-presence residency requirement to an average of 122 days a year over three years. USVI representatives stress that the four-month-a-year average is a federal guideline used to determine taxpaying residency for foreigners, and should apply to American citizens living in an American territory.

    Although spokesmen for the USVI government said yesterday that the tax-breaks eligibility requires a primary residence in the Islands and that a taxpayer should have no closer connection to any other locale, the new regulations would theoretically allow a taxpayer to spend a full year and a day in the islands, not set foot there for the remaining two years, and still claim USVI residency on tax returns for all three years.

    As the Sun reported last week, the governor of the Virgin Islands, Charles Turnbull, identified Messrs. Crapo, Thomas, Smith, and Talent, as likely supporters of the Islands' efforts. The senators sit on the Senate Energy and Finance Committees, which have oversight of America's territories and taxation, respectively.

    Campaign-finance filings, however, indicate that the USVI's hoped-for allies were also the beneficiaries of USVI private largesse. Mr. Baucus received $66,500 from 52 USVI contributors. Mr. Crapo last year received $39,000 from 27 USVI donors. Mr. Thomas received $21,000 from 16 USVI donors, and Mr. Talent received $38,600 from 30 USVI donors. Mr. Smith raked in $47,000 from 48 donors. The numbers were first published in the St. Thomas Source.

    Contributions to Mr. Smith, in particular, have drawn fire from a Democratic interest group, the Senate Majority Project. The group, which notes that the USVI was Mr. Smith's fourth-largest donor base by geography after Oregon, Washington, and Virginia, alleges that Mr. Smith's support for reducing the EDC residency requirements contradicts past efforts to keep American business from moving to more tax friendly locales like Bermuda.

    "Gordon Smith took a trip down to the Virgin Islands, and came back with $47,000 and a new position on offshore tax havens," the Executive Director of the Senate Majority Project, Mike Gehrke, said in a press release from the group.

    A spokesman for Mr. Smith, Christopher Matthews, told the Sun yesterday that the group's allegations were "factually inaccurate"; that Mr. Smith believes in reviewing policies that would put an undue and unfair burden on the USVI economy; and that the donations had no effect on the senator's position. Moreover, he said, Mr. Smith has no intention of introducing legislation to implement the lower residency requirement.

    The Washington-based USVI lobbyist who organized the fundraising trips, Kevin Callwood, told the Sun yesterday they were paid for by the lawmakers, not the Virgin Islands. Mr. Callwood, a Virgin Islander who said he netted $160,000 last year representing the territory's government, said yesterday the senators had visited the islands at the invitation of Mr. Turnbull - who has invited "a lot" of members of Congress to familiarize themselves with the territories, since the USVI has no voting congressional representative.

    The fund-raising and visits, Mr. Callwood said, "are as kosher as it gets," adding: "Fund-raisers take place all around the country every day."

    A spokeswoman for Mr. Crapo, too, said the fund-raiser had no connection to the Idaho senator's efforts in behalf of the USVI. The spokeswoman, Susan Wheeler, told the Sun earlier this week that Mr. Crapo wanted to visit the territory as part of his work on the Senate Finance Committee, but that Senate rules prohibit the use of Senate funds for individual senators' foreign travel, and that a visit to America's territories is considered foreign travel. Mr. Crapo's campaign, she said, paid for the trip, and held the fund-raiser in order to make up the cost.

    USVI advocates stressed yesterday that the campaign to ease residency restrictions is not meant to help tax evasion, which the Islands' government opposes. Rather, they said, the government is concerned that the new requirements will remove the EDC incentive to invest in the Virgin Islands, adding that the program represents at least a fifth of the Islands' revenue.

    Posted by afinta at 06:14 AM | Comments (0)

    March 05, 2006

    Virgin Islands Are at Center of Dispute on Tax Break

    So the NY Times is now in the loop:

    The United States Virgin Islands and several wealthy financiers who own homes there are working to persuade Congress to drop a new requirement that at least half the year be spent in the islands in order to get a tax break intended to spur their economic development.

    The economic development program allows an effective federal income tax rate of just 3.5 percent for bona fide residents of the Virgin Islands. It has drawn wealthy Americans from the mainland and kindled an economic boom.

    But the program, whose benefits have been available for decades, has also allowed some homeowners who spend little time in the islands to avoid federal taxes estimated at $400 million. At least one person, who lived in the islands less than one month a year and nonetheless claimed the program's benefits for income he generated selling insurance in Massachusetts, has pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

    The new requirement, adopted by the Internal Revenue Service under legislation enacted by Congress in 2004, is intended to crack down on the practice. The legislation followed articles that exposed how little time some of the beneficiaries spent in the islands and how little of their income was derived there.

    The program has long required individuals who benefit from the tax break, as well as companies that do so, to commit $100,000 of capital, employ 10 local residents, buy goods and services from local suppliers and promise to make charitable donations. But until Jan. 31, when the new restriction took effect, there was no explicit residency requirement; the I.R.S. instead used a "facts and circumstances" test to assess eligibility. As a result of the change, individuals claiming the benefit must now prove that they have spent 183 days in the Virgin Islands during the year.

    In response, the Virgin Islands Tax Working Group, which represents people who benefit from the break, paid $200,000 last year for lobbyists, according to records compiled by Political Money Line, a nonpartisan campaign finance tracking service. At least one senator, Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, has been saluted in the islands at a fund-raiser on his behalf attended by several beneficiaries of the program.

    The government of the Virgin Islands is just as eager as the beneficiaries to have the new restriction eased. Donna M. Christensen, the islands' delegate to Congress, acknowledged problems with the program in written testimony submitted at a hearing held Wednesday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Interior Department and thus territorial affairs. But she asked committee members to lobby for a lightening of the residency requirement.

    Ms. Christensen, describing the rule as onerous, wants Congress to reduce the requirement to 122 days over three years, or an average of a little more than a month annually.

    "This is the No. 1 issue for us in terms of our economic prosperity going forward," she said.

    The rule's opponents, whose efforts were first reported in The New York Sun, have asked Senator Michael D. Crapo, an Idaho Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, to propose an amendment in tax legislation now being negotiated. In a letter to Senator Pete V. Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who heads the energy committee, Mr. Crapo said the specific tax rules governing beneficiaries of the program had been changed without legislative hearings and without consulting the Virgin Islands government.

    "As a result, we now see that the changes may have gone too far," Mr. Crapo wrote. "While the bad actors have been successfully removed from the program, these changes are also disrupting legitimate businesses and causing fiscal hardship."

    Chris Matthews, a spokesman for Senator Smith, who sits on both the energy committee and the Finance Committee, confirmed that the senator attended a fund-raiser for him in the Virgin Islands last year. Mr. Matthews said Mr. Smith had subsequently chatted with some of his colleagues about his concerns that the tighter regulations were hurting law-abiding businesses.

    You have to think the feds will eventually all but kill this program - unless they can be lobbied effectively by the multi-millionaires who are abusing the system.

    Posted by afinta at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

    January 31, 2006

    Some EDC news

    The Source is reporting the following:

    V.I. Officials Disappointed with New EDC Residency Regulations

    Jan. 30, 2006 -- The Internal Revenue Service and the U.S Department of Treasury Monday made public the long-awaited residency requirements concerning Economic Development Commission companies. Delegate Donna Christensen said, "The only good thing we can say about this is that they are out, and the companies now know what they need to know."

    She added, "This is not what we wanted or what we needed." The federal authorities did not budge much on the 183-day residency requirement. Christensen and others had advocated that an average of 122 days in the territory over three years be sufficient.

    The final regulations do allow that time in the United States for medical reasons will not be applied against residency time. But here, too, Christensen has concerns. She says the medical days just cover in-patient time, and people often have to travel to the states and spend time that necessarily is not under in-patient care but is still medical.

    The New York Sun also has an article:

    "The Treasury Department and the IRS yesterday announced a final regulation that will go a long way toward plugging a loophole that allowed some very rich Americans to cut their personal income tax bills by 90% by declaring themselves residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Front-page New York Sun articles in August and September of 2003 highlighted the obscure tax break, which Virgin Islands officials touted as an economic development program. The Sun reported back in 2003 that prominent money managers such as Richard Driehaus and Jeffrey Epstein were availing themselves of the provision and that the provisions on who qualified as a Virgin Islands resident for tax purposes were vague."

    You have to be registered to read the whole thing.

    Posted by afinta at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

    November 25, 2005

    Protestors Stop Shoppers at Starfish Market

    This just sounds very counterproductive:

    Nov. 23, 2005 –– Truck driver Shaka Anthony was at Starfish Market Wednesday to join the checkout lane slowdown spearheaded by St. Croix activist Mario Moorhead and his followers.

    "It's just the right thing to do," he said.

    About a dozen protestors paid for bottled water with pennies at the slowdown, but Anthony did not give a concrete answer when the Source asked him what the issues were surrounding the event.

    "I don't know. I'm just here," he said.

    He said he lost a day's pay - usually around $450 per day - to attend the protest.

    Moorhead was not one of the people who tied up the store's checkout lanes. Instead, he remained outside. He refused to comment on the issues, but St. John Administrator Julian Harley said later that the protest leaders met with the FBI via video conferencing. He said they wanted to know why the police had named suspects in the David Geiger murder case, but not in Esther Frett's alleged rape.

    This is the second protest against Starfish Market, St. John's largest supermarket and by many accounts, a store that's extremely generous when it comes to donating food for community events.

    More here from the Source.

    Posted by afinta at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

    November 18, 2005

    Beach Bar raid

    Okay - this is not factual reporting, but second and third hand rumor (that is what the Coco-Tel is for, no?). A raid did happen - was it IRS, FBI, DEA - I don't think we know that for sure. Here is some of what the Coconut Telegraph has heard (if you can add to this please do some in the comments or send me an email) - some of this has been redacted:

    The IRS, FBI and possibly DEA raided the Beach Bar early AM with about 25 assorted officers from PR along with a big helicopter (also from Homeland Sec. in PR).

    The owner is:

    a) upstairs in his wharfside apt throughout
    b) arrested and carried away
    c) fled in his boat and being looked for

    depending on who you talk to.

    The Beach Bar just opened for biz and the bartender upon opening said
    "First round is on me!"

    Files, records and computers were all seized and carried
    away in the copter which landed in the national park
    ball field across from Mongoose Junction. One entire copter load was boxes of evidence. Second trip to pick up officers. Copter has being buzzing all over town since 7 AM.


    ..the paper says IRS. Never heard of the IRS sweeping in with guns and helicopters. Heard the owners took off the night before.. ... (a friend) was sitting outside (St. Thomas dining spot) the night before and overheard a guy on the phone telling someone they need to leave by boat right away as the FBI was coming for them the next morning. The person told them to go to JVD and a boat would be there waiting for them and they should go to Cuba...

    Posted by afinta at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

    November 17, 2005

    VIPA Denies New Ferry Company Fee Waivers

    The St. Thomas Source is reporting:

    Nov. 16, 2005 -- The V.I. Port Authority Board on Wednesday denied the Island Lynx's request to waive almost all local marine tariffs for the operation of its fast ferry service.

    The waivers would have allowed the company to avoid pay pilot or wharfage fees, as well as ship dues, at VIPA owned boat terminals.

    "The waivers are being sought to reduce the operating costs of the proposed ferry service during the critical start-up period and initial years of operation," R.C. Siebengartner, the company's manager, wrote to VIPA in early October.

    Island Lynx, a new year-round, high speed, inter-island ferry, is scheduled to start service between the territory, Vieques, and Tortola in December--replacing the V.I. Fast Ferry Salacia, which has been whisking residents between St. Thomas and St. Croix for the past six seasons. Boston Harbor Cruises, Salacia's parent company, said they would temporarily pull their operation out of the territory, as Island Lynx could prove to be financially damaging competition.

    Posted by afinta at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

    November 15, 2005

    Recent Crimes Casting a Pall Over St. John

    That is a headline from the St. Thomas Source this morning. This is just very hard to read and even say out loud. The article has a run down of the recent strife. Roy Innis sounds like a man who has his head on straight - let's hope he can bring some sense to all of this.

    Posted by afinta at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

    November 14, 2005

    Second Look at Sailboat Yields Big Cocaine Find

    Hey now!

    St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (ICE) -- A second look at a cocaine-carrying sailboat intercepted by the Coast Guard in May and about to be auctioned off netted almost 1,800 pounds of cocaine.

    ICE special agents, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and officers of the U.S. Virgin Island Police Department discovered 1,764.4 pounds of cocaine hidden within the walls of a 49-foot sailboat, the British-flagged vessel S/V Gio, docked at the Port of St. Croix.

    More here.

    Posted by afinta at 06:09 AM | Comments (0)

    November 08, 2005

    Feds deny full waiver for USVI charter boats

    Who knows what the economic and long term effect will be of this law, but is doesn't sound very encouraging:

    ST THOMAS, USVI: Congressional Delegate Donna Christiansen announced Wednesday that the US Department of Homeland Security will not grant a waiver to charter yacht boats in the Virgin Islands from the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) requirement that all vessels transmit a passenger and crew manifest to US Customs and Border Protection prior to arrival at a US port.

    Delegate Christiansen requested the waiver when it became known that the regulation would soon be enforced. Charter yacht boaters who make trips to the British Virgin Islands are especially concerned about the requirement to transmit a manifest as early as 96 hours, but not later than 24 hours prior to departure.

    In a letter to Delegate Christiansen, Asst. Homeland Security Secretary Pamela Turner wrote that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) "recognized a need to accommodate the industry you represent, as well as the industry in the Great Lakes and Southern Florida where multiple voyages can occur within a 24 hour period, CBP has instructed its ports to exercise prosecutorial discretion and waive the 24 hour turnaround time for vessels that are engaged in 'short-turn' voyages."

    From CaribbeanNetNews - more here.

    The physical realities of the proximity of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, make laws like this extremely inconvenient at the least. It is going to be a challenge to enforce. Let's hope it doesn't prove to be an economic burden too.

    Posted by afinta at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

    November 06, 2005

    Archeologists at Fort Christian Discover Bodies

    Here is an interesting story from the St. Thomas Source:

    Nov. 4, 2005 – Archeologists excavating at Fort Christian on St. Thomas Friday uncovered the remains of one and possibly two people.

    "We identified a tooth, which speaks to a small child," Historic Preservation Office director Myron Jackson said.

    Archeologist David Brewer said the site also contains several bones.

    "There's a definite possibility there may be more than one person buried," he said.

    Brewer said the initial discovery was made by the agency's archeological technician, Patton Mulford.

    Brewer said he and his team were working on test sites to see what existed when Friday's discovery revealed itself.

    Jackson said all burials will be treated with respect and disturbed as little as possible.

    More here.

    Posted by afinta at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

    October 24, 2005

    Avoiding Taxes Harder As Scrutiny Increases

    From BlackEnterprise.com

    "The Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration has made its first demand for payment of overdue state income taxes from an unidentified Arkansan who claimed to be a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands."

    Posted by afinta at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

    US Virgin Islands National Park access threatened

    From Caribbean Net News (I can't say they are a news organization that I have full faith in):

    ST THOMAS, USVI: Friends of Virgin Islands National Park (FVINP) president, Joe Kessler has released information on the organization's web site, detailing a 441 acre land deal involving, "...stretches from Maho Bay beach to Centerline Road, Mamey Peak and Ajax Peak."

    Kessler states, "... potential buyers are in 'secret negotiations' with the heirs of the land's original owners and are, at the same time, trying to force the National Park Service to sell its share of the property in return for the designation of 80 acres as a conservation area."

    The president of the 3,000-member group, with members each state of the union and a dozen foreign countries, went on to say, "The developer is also planning to divert North Shore Road in such a way as to make Maho Bay beach access more difficult and to build a private dock at Maho."

    The potential buyers have been identified by FVINP as James and Marilyn Simons, of New York City. They are sponsors of the charitable, Simons Foundation, a non-profit organization chartered with the state of Delaware. According to Kessler, 44 acres would be allocated for the present Maho Bay Institute as a "think tank", 42 acres for the heirs' residential sites, and 89 acres for the family compound and (presumably) other residential sites.

    Kessler pointed out that Maho Beach is the most accessible beach on St. John for both visitors and island residents with disabilities. People can be transported to within about 20 feet of the water and the beach, as well as the submerged, relatively flat land.

    Recent tourism publications have highlighted the accessibility of the Maho Bay area for visitors with mobility disabilities. The area serves as a model, new initiative for the disabled, according to information released by USVI Tourism officials at the current, International, Caribbean Tourism Conference.

    The developer also wants the right to clean and drain the wetlands area in Maho Bay, and open a permanent waterway. Kessler says the wetland area has kept Maho Bay clean for the last 50 years, and to do so would "environmentally devastate Maho Bay."

    The organization's president released the following statement to Caribbean Net News, "The Jackson Hole Preserve (Laurence Rockefeller's Foundation) was donated to the US Government specifically for the establishment of Virgin Islands National Park," and "Furthermore, within the transfer deed was a 'reversion clause' which basically states that should the land donated by JHP no longer be used as a national park, the land reverts to JHP."

    Posted by afinta at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

    Caribbean Fears Storms Will Hurt Tourism

    This AP article was filed from the US Virgin Islands - it is without a byline but I assume someone is there covering the CTC conference. It does raise and interesting and valid point though of guilt by association - consumers tend to think of the Caribbean as a whole, and bad news for one island can be construed as bad news for many:

    "CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) - Caribbean tourism officials are worried this year's record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season could scare away visitors who may falsely believe the entire region has been affected by the flurry of storms.

    How to deal with the negative publicity surrounding hurricanes was one of several issues officials planned to tackle at the four-day Caribbean Tourism Conference that kicked off Sunday in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    The meeting came as the record-breaking 22nd named storm of the season, Alpha, came ashore over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, days after a fierce Hurricane Wilma roared through the region before slamming Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Alpha later weakened into a depression.

    Officials say the Caribbean's frequent association with storms only makes life harder for the region's fickle tourism industry, the backbone of many small-island economies. The region has seen a slow but steady rise in visitors since a drought in travel after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

    "People's sense of geography isn't as sharp as we would wish it to be, so the perception is that when one country is affected (by hurricanes), all are," said Hugh Riley, marketing director for the 32-member Caribbean Tourism Organization.

    A spokesman for the tourism department of the British Caribbean territory of the Turks and Caicos islands agreed.

    "If there's a hurricane off Barbados, we get calls (from abroad) asking if family members are OK in the Turks and Caicos," some 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away, said Kingsley Been."

    Click here for the rest.

    Posted by afinta at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

    October 21, 2005

    USVI Delegate seeks waiver for Virgin Islands charter boaters

    From Caribbean Net News:

    "ST THOMAS, USVI: The US Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress, Donna M. Christensen, has announced that she is working with federal and local Customs and Border Protection officials to secure a waiver of the requirement of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), 33 CFR Part 160, for small vessels operating in US and British Virgin islands waters.

    The Aviation and transportation Security Act of 2001 and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002 together mandate the collection of certain information on all passenger and crew members who arrive in and depart from the United States on a commercial air or sea carrier."

    Click here for the rest.

    Posted by afinta at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

    October 11, 2005

    Group’s St. John Protests Targeted Businesses

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    Oct. 10, 2005 – Many St. John residents remain puzzled as to why the St. Croix group, We the People for Justice, targeted St. John restaurants by holding sit-ins over the weekend.

    St. John resident Ronnie Jones, who participated in some of the events, said the main purpose was to pressure law enforcement officials into providing information on the alleged rape of Esther Frett. No one has been arrested in connection with this case.

    "It seems a long time to get any kind of response," Jones said.

    He said that if someone had raped a "Caucasian lady, you know there would have been an arrest even if it wasn't factual."

    Jones said the group also targeted Starfish Market because it was the "biggest business on St. John."

    Click here for the whole story.

    Posted by afinta at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

    October 05, 2005

    Abandoned historic building destroyed in blaze

    From the VI Daily News:

    "ST. THOMAS - A 150-year-old historic building on Bunker Hill that preservationists were hoping to turn into a museum was gutted by a fire early Friday.

    St. Thomas-St. John Fire Chief Glenn Francis said firefighters from Hotel Company arrived at the Garden Street fire just five minutes after receiving the call about 6 a.m. Friday, but the building was entirely engulfed in flames.

    "The fire was very intense," Francis said. "Because of the heat, we were unable to enter, and the roof and floor collapsed."

    Francis said 15 firefighters from Hotel Company, Echo Company and some off-duty firefighters battled the blaze for about an hour to bring it under control. It took another hour to extinguish the flames, he said.

    Containment of the fire was critical because it was close to other buildings, he said. No other buildings were damaged in the blaze, and no one was injured.

    "Firefighters did a pretty good job," Francis said."

    Always a sad day when St. Thomas loses another historical building. The rest of the article is here.

    Posted by afinta at 08:41 AM | Comments (0)

    October 03, 2005

    USVI march leader calls for blocking tourist dollars on St John

    Here is another take on the march, with some more details, from Caribbean Net News:

    "Leaders of the group would later say several charter boats canceled reservations once they learned the purpose of the group's trip; to lend a hand to the St. John community in calling attention to the lack of progress the FBI is making in solving the rape of a black woman by four white men on the island."

    More here.

    Posted by afinta at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

    Many Calls for Unity at St. John Rally

    So this is good news - it seems that the march on Saturday was a peaceful event. From the St. Thomas Source:

    Oct. 1, 2005 –– Although Mario Moorhead threatened to do harm to Cruz Bay businesses if no one is apprehended in the Esther Frett alleged rape case, many people preferred to focus instead on the unity message at Saturday's Virgin Islands Unity Day march.

    "After the rally comes the work," the Rev. Charles Crespo said.

    Crespo, who shepherds the flock at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church on St. John, said the island needs to address issues like its racial dynamics, insufficient infrastructure, land grab, and accelerated over population.

    About 250 people both black and white marched from the Winston Wells Ballfield through the streets of Cruz Bay. A rally followed at the ballfield.

    The rest is here.

    Posted by afinta at 10:53 AM | Comments (1)

    October 02, 2005

    U.S. answers V.I. letter on St. John hate crime investigation

    The Virgin Islands Daily News is reporting:

    In a letter responding to Gov. Charles Turnbull's plea for intervention, a U.S. Justice Department official said Friday that several of its agencies are "devoting substantial resources" to investigating hate crimes on St. John.

    Turnbull sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in Washington, D.C., urging him to intervene, expressing concern about the lack of results in the federal investigation of reported hate crimes on the island.

    In recent months a series of events - including an assault and reports of a rape, vandalism and several arsons - have resulted in a hate crime investigation by federal and local law enforcement agencies.

    The rest is here.

    Posted by afinta at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

    September 30, 2005

    Turnbull Asks for FBI and DOJ to Speed Up Investigation and Answers

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    "Gov. Charles W. Turnbull took St. John's racial tensions to Washington, D.C. by asking U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to press for answers in the federal government's investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the investigation into recent alleged racially-motivated crimes on St. John.

    "The incidents have inflamed emotions in St. John and across the territory, resulting in a series of demonstrations and protest marches planned during the first week of October," the governor wrote to Gonzales.

    He told Gonzales that the demonstrations are timed to coincide with the day residents commemorate Contract Day, "often referred to as the Fireburn, which is the anniversary of a slave uprising which occurred on St. Croix in 1878."

    In fact, slavery ended 30 years earlier –– in 1848. The Fireburn was a workers' rebellion.

    A rally, march and motorcade, a joint effort between groups from St. Croix and St. John, are scheduled for Saturday. A week of events including forums are also planned."

    More here. Here's another snippet:

    "However, Monique-Sibilly Hodge, assistant Tourism commissioner, said that so far, she's not gotten any reports from the territory's travel partners about the situation."

    I mean, of course she is going to say that. No one in the industry is going to say anything, because it has the potential to be a very negative story for tourism, and the local economy. Unfortunately this doesn't seem like the kind of story that is just going to go away, or be ignored away. I am hoping that Saturday is a peaceful and calm day on St. John, for everyone's sake, but if things go bad, you can bet Ms. Sibilly-Hodge is going to be hearing a lot.

    Posted by afinta at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

    September 27, 2005

    USVI mired in allegations of hate crimes

    Well it isn't the NY Times or CNN or one of the networks, but there is a story out today on the web from Caribbean Net News about the "unrest" in St. John. I think the story has many problems frankly, and includes some very confusing paragraphs and inaccurate statements (so just imagined how it will end up once the main stream media does get a hold of it). It also names Esther Frett as the rape victim:

    "The incidents escalated and came to a head on June 30 when Esther Frett was shoved by the storeowner who was subsequently arrested. On Aug. 30, news spread around the islands that Ester (sic) Frett had been kidnapped, raped and thrown into the sea."

    From all I have read so far I don't think the police have ever identified Frett as the victim. The piece ends with this:

    "Some residents are experiencing economic hardships and have, or are in danger of losing land that has been passed down from generation to generation as a result of wealthy people coming into the islands and purchasing land and building expensive homes thus raising the amount of taxes owed on the property."

    Have the property taxes on vacant land on St. John really gone up that much that people are "losing" their property over it? I think this paragraph is a canard and totally wrong, if you think otherwise let me know.

    Posted by afinta at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

    September 26, 2005

    Intentions Questioned

    From the Tradewinds:

    Some officials view the demonstration as a potentially positive opportunity as long as it remains peaceful and non-violent. “My concern is that although the stated intent is to show solidarity for the native people of St. John, there could be one or two or three or more people in Mario’s group who would have an intent to commemorate the Fireburn in a much more graphic and realistic method than he has been calling for on his radio program,” said Senator-at-Large Craig Barshinger, who said he asked Crucians three weeks ago on AM 670 to not come to St. John if they had any intention of violence. “I said St. John is Love City and we continue to invest the effort necessary to keep it the wonderful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial community that it is,” said Sen. Barshinger. There is a “mixed message” circulating about the march, according to Sen. Barshinger. “On the radio, people are talking about coming in solidarity, but there is an undercurrent that it may be a reenactment of the 1878 Fireburn,” he said. “The question is: why are they coming?” said Barshinger. “My only concern is what is in their hearts; are they coming to affirm the right to be free from intimidation in one’s own home – if so, I applaud them and welcome them.” “But if they are coming with the intention of violence, either toward persons or property, then they should not come,” he added.

    More here

    Posted by afinta at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

    Crucians Preparing to March on St. John

    From the St. Thomas Source today:

    "From Hurricane Hole to Cruz Bay, our people need to feel comfortable going from one side of the island to another," Kherishetapheru told the crowd.

    Is that really true? Are St. Johnians really afraid to cross their own island? I have to question the language of the comment - when someone says "our people" and not "all people" or the "people of St. John" it so obviously feeds into the whole "us and them" mentality, and obviously the "us and them" that Dr. Kherishetapheru is talking about are black people and white people. Click here for the rest of the article.

    Posted by afinta at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

    September 23, 2005

    March in Support of Fretts Scheduled for St. John

    From the St. John Source:

    Sept. 22, 2005 - Several groups and individuals from St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John are organizing a protest march on St. John on Oct. 1. According to organizers, the protest is intended to "show solidarity for the Frett family."

    "We are coming to demand answers and put pressure on law enforcement to be more engaging to the community," Dr. Chenzira Kherishetapheru, one of the organizers of the protest march, said Thursday. Kherishetapheru said she expects the protest to be peaceful. "We are respectfully asking that anyone who is counterproductive not to attend the protest," she said. "We are within our civil and constitutional rights."

    On Aug. 30, news spread around the islands that a St. John woman had been kidnapped, raped and assaulted. The woman, later identified as Esther Frett, had previously been the victim of alleged hate crimes. Someone had written racial epithets on the fence of the house she shares her husband, Jerry. There were also several drawings left on their car of a hangman's noose and stick figures of a woman.

    Click here for the full article. I think I am so interested in this story because I see it as a microcosm of America, boiled down to this one tiny island. America is a racially and economically divided place - and now on St. John we are going to see a potentially dramatic event unfold (this planned protest) which could be a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the country.

    Update: There is also an article in the Daily News today - "St. Croix group getting permits, making plans for St. John protest"

    Posted by afinta at 07:43 AM | Comments (0)

    September 21, 2005

    The real root of our troubles

    This was a guest editorial in the VI Daily News last week:

    Peter Muilenburg Thursday, September 15th 2005

    When my wife and I arrived here 37 years ago we were treated with respect and hospitality. St. John was a model of interracial harmony, a wonderful village to raise a child in, a Caribbean island owned and governed by Caribbean people.

    Then things changed, slowly at first, then with frightening rapidity after 9-11. Whereas the early continentals saw themselves as guests and even the very wealthy ones satisfied themselves with modest homes, now more and more continentals came down, some of whom were impatient with the old island ways. People who didn't know "tun-tun" from tuna fish or Arrow from Sparrow were driving around like they owned the place - and guess what, they did!

    They bought land which they proceeded first to strip mine, then to bury under tons of cement, erecting monuments to conspicuous consumption that were wholly out of step with St. John's style. The Grand Bay condos symbolize what went wrong with the island. How did that obtrusive monstrosity get approved by CZM? Those condos are selling for $900,000, (you gonna buy one?) selling St. John's beauty - selling it right down the river. Somehow they got permission to block that beauty from those behind them, who came before them and should have some rights. Human rights, born-here rights, live-here rights, raised-my-children-here rights.

    Did we need this blot on the bay? No, nobody likes it. Then why was it built? Easy. Because a lot money was made off the deal by some high- finance "whup-whop man" who done the deal and gone.

    People came to sail, or to drink cheap rum, for the world class beaches, or for the reggae or the fishing, or just for their piece of paradise. Believe it or not, some even came because the Caribbean culture was such a refreshing change from the uptight, materialistic mainland. And all of them were surprised, and some of them hurt when they first realized that, to increasing numbers of Virgin Islanders, they were the enemy.

    The famous Japanese movie Rashomon explores how "reality" changes one incident, a rape, from multiple points of view to show how "reality" changes according to differing perspectives. The circumstances surrounding an East End rape are a case in point. For instance, barely a couple of weeks before the reported East End rape, a white woman in Coral Bay was robbed, bound and beaten in her home, then almost suffocated by taping her mouth and nose with duct tape. Two black men wearing masks were her assailants, she said. That incident barely made a blip on the local radar. The police treated it as humdrum, showed up late, didn't bother with forensics - just the way they have reacted to the spate of armed robberies on the island, unconcerned and useless. Nobody called it a hate crime.

    Yet when a black woman claimed she had been raped by three white men half the Senate leaped onto the ferry to hold a meeting on St. John. Virgin Islanders were infuriated. Among the claims: the island was unsafe for native women and children because of white people; Coral Bay was an outpost of the klan and St. John another "Mississippi Burning," and the time was come to deal forcefully with white oppression.

    Lost in the rhetoric was the fact that V.I. women and children are much more threatened by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting involving their own kith and kin than by a rampaging klansman. As far as rape goes, plenty of women have been raped in the Virgin Islands (open any newspaper) but does anyone remember a single instance where the rapist was a white continental? Not counting the "alleged" (as the police keep saying) East End rape.

    To compare St. John with Mississippi back in the bad old days is dead wrong. It insults the memory of the genuine martyrs of the civil rights movement. Trust me on this one because I was there - I dropped out of college when I was 19 and spent most of 1965 working in Mississippi in the civil rights movement. I heard first hand the horror stories about murderous police and racist judges. I was privileged to meet the unsung heroes and heroines who laid their lives on the line and I saw with my own eyes - how hard to believe now - the signs on the bathrooms and water fountains in the county courthouse that said "Colored" and "White Only."

    Here in the Virgin Islands virtually all the police, legislators, judges, commissioners (as well as the governor himself) are from these islands - and this has been the case for a long time. Case closed.

    "Continentals are pushing Virgin Islanders off their land." That's one perspective. Another perspective might be: "Virgin Islanders freely sold off their birthright for the yankee dollar." But the most objective would be: "The laws of supply and demand are turning St. John into a high-priced commodity that only the wealthy can afford."

    There's the root of our troubles.

    Peter Muilenburg is the author of "Adrift On A Sea of Blue Light."

    Posted by afinta at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

    September 20, 2005

    St. Croix group plans demonstration on St. John over rape investigation

    From The VI Daily News:

    "ST. CROIX - More than four dozen residents met at a Sion Farm ballpark on Sunday to plan an Oct.1 protest on St. John with the hope of pressuring police to find the suspects of a kidnapping and rape reported on that island in August.

    Those who attended the meeting expressed dismay at what they see as the slow pace of the investigation and said the government must not let racial violence get a foothold in the territory. The group plans to march in St. John on Oct. 1, and some members said they will remain on the island until an arrest is made.

    The protest stems from the reported kidnapping and rape of a woman on St. John on Aug. 30. Police have released little information in the case and have said that the FBI is heading up the case. The FBI is also investigating a number of other incidents described as hate crimes, including an assault, vandalism and several arsons."

    The rest is here.

    Posted by afinta at 06:42 AM | Comments (3)

    September 14, 2005

    Lewis Reveals Little on Investigation into Hate Crimes

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    Sept. 13, 2005 - Police Commissioner Elton Lewis said at a press conference Tuesday that significant progress had been made in the investigation of alleged hate crimes on St. John. He also said that he expected the investigation to be concluded relatively soon, but he gave no timetable or specifics.

    He concluded his comments at the police station in Frederiksted, "I urge the public not to allow rumor and innuendo to divide the community."

    The rest is here. This is a pretty strange story and it seems to me that there are intimations that not all claims at this point are true.

    Posted by afinta at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

    September 10, 2005

    Harley Calls for Calm, Says Answers Are Coming

    From the Source:

    Sept. 9, 2005 – In the wake of St. John's recent racial tensions, island Administrator Julien Harley Friday called for calm and level-headedness. However, he said that he soon expects some answers from federal officials investigating the series of incidents that have inflamed St. John. "Hopefully, next week," he said. Harley said he sent out a press release Friday calling for calm to stop the innuendos and rumors that circulate like wildfire around St. John regarding the incidents. Additionally, he said that news about a possible Oct. 1 protest on St. John by people from St. Croix and St. Thomas helped convince him a press release was needed. Oct. 1 has its roots in the territory's history as contract day, the day when laborers were free to sign on with new employers if they so wished. In 1878, laborers' frustrations led to riots that resulted in the burning of many St. Croix estates. "What are they protesting?" Harley asked Friday afternoon.

    I have the same question. Click here for the whole article.

    Posted by afinta at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

    You can't make this stuff up!

    From the AP:

    U.S. agents arrest Virgin Islands woman

    CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands -- U.S. agents arrested a Virgin Islands woman for allegedly posing as an American ambassador, occasionally getting body guard protection and even riding in motorcades, an official said Friday.

    Elena Lin Yee was arrested Thursday and charged with impersonating a U.S. government official and misuse of official documents, said Christopher Tremann, a special agent with the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security.

    He said Yee used fake credentials to pose as a U.S. ambassador to Grenada, the wife of a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a U.S. ambassador-at-large.

    She convinced U.S. and foreign government officials to provide her with body guards, motorcades and access to events, Tremann said.

    He said the State Department had investigated Lee in 1996 for using false credentials, but no charges were filed.

    He said her arrest came after she allegedly tried to bypass U.S. customs by using State Department credentials. The credentials were authentic but Lee had not been entitled to them, he said.

    By posing as a U.S. ambassador-at-large, Yee also briefly held a seat on the advisory board of the National Society of High School Scholars, said Delle Driskell, vice-president of the Atlanta-based organization, which provides scholarships to high school graduates.

    She was released on $10,000 bail. Yee, a longtime resident of St. Thomas, the largest U.S. Virgin island, could face up to eight years in prison if convicted. She will be arraigned Sept. 21.

    Posted by afinta at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

    September 09, 2005

    Recent St. John Unrest

    For those of you who have yet to hear we recently located to Florence, Italy (http://www.florence-journal.com/) after four and a half years in the Virgin Islands. Running Virgin-Islands-On-Line is still my number one business priority, and even though we are not "on the ground" we know that we will keep up via the web and by returning as often as we can (just like we did for the first 6 years of the site). The recent news out of St. John though has been a test of what kind of news you can get from the web and the feel you can get for a story that is unfolding thousands of miles away.

    Anyway, after reading the Source and the Daily News, I finally got a couple of first hand opinions about the whole thing from some people there that have put the situation into more perspective for me (mainly, that it is a "mess" and that there are a lot of rumors and innuendos flying around). For everyone's sake it would be best that cooler heads prevail, and that this episode blows over. St. John is special to a lot of us for a lot of reasons. I never personally felt any "racial tensions" there as the press is so ready to label the recent goings on. Let's hope that the police and the FBI can make heads or tails of this situation and that a result that satisfies everyone comes about, without any more hate or violence.

    Posted by afinta at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

    September 06, 2005

    U.S. Virgin Islands Airline Says French Ban On its Flights Unjustified

    From the AP:

    "Air St. Thomas was among six carriers on a blacklist released by the French civil aviation authority Sunday in an attempt to allay public fears about flying after a recent series of deadly crashes. Although all the airlines had been banned in recent years, France had never before made a blacklist public."

    More here.

    Posted by afinta at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

    August 23, 2005

    The Battle of Belize

    The Miami Herald takes a swipe at Jeff Prosser today:

    The battle of BelizeThe government of Belize hailed the 2004 sale of the national telephone company to a U.S.-Caribbean corporation as a moment of promise and partnership. And the principal in the nearly $90 million deal -- Palm Beach and St. Croix entrepreneur Jeffrey J. Prosser -- declared he was ''proud'' to be part of the small country's development goals.

    Click here for the rest (subscription required)

    Posted by afinta at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

    August 19, 2005

    Prosser Loses, Belize Wins in Miami Court

    More on the ongoing saga of Jeff Prosser from the St. Thomas Source:

    Aug. 16, 2005 -- A federal judge in Miami ruled Tuesday that she had no objection to the Belize government's seizure earlier this year of Belize Telecommunications Ltd. (BTL) from Jeffrey Prosser’s Innovative Communications Corp.

    The judge affirmed the seizure; lifted a temporary injunction against the government of Belize (GOB), which she had issued earlier at Prosser’s request; and awarded "nominal" damages to ICC on a minor issue in the complex case.

    ICC--which owns Innovative Telephone, formerly Vitelco--is one of the largest corporate employers in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Funds borrowed from Vitelco had been used by ICC in the Belizean phone company deal.

    Prosser’s control of BTL had been based on a $28.5 million payment, the assumption of the debts of a failed Belizean telecom firm, and the issuance of a promissory note for another $57 million. When the $57 million was not forthcoming, the Belize government seized the phone company and Prosser sued in the Miami courts. Earlier, the Belize government had agreed to submit itself to the jurisdiction of that court in order to secure a loan, financing the deal, from a Florida bank.

    Click here to read the rest.

    Posted by afinta at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

    August 17, 2005


    American Airlines Increases International Fare Surcharges; Increase of $10 Each Way to Help Offset High Fuel Costs

    FORT WORTH, Texas, Aug. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- American Airlines today increased surcharges on fares to/from most of its international destinations, as well as to/from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The increase is $10 one way, $20 round trip, and is effective immediately. The increase will help offset the record high cost of jet fuel.

    Posted by afinta at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

    August 16, 2005

    Gov. Turnbull Signs EDC Reform Bill Into Law

    From the Source:

    Aug. 15, 2005 -- Joining efforts to jumpstart the territory’s economy, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull signed into law this week bills designed to create reform within the Economic Development Commission and to promote the growth of small businesses within the community.

    The EDC Reform Bill, passed by the Senate in early July, will effectively help to close loopholes within the existing law, therefore protecting against any future abuse of the system (See "EDC Reform Bill Clears Committee".) Additionally, the EDC law will:

    -create opportunities for residents who want to open a business and receive higher amounts of EDC benefits;

    -implement a tier system in order to improve qualifications for loans;

    -enhance the opportunity for EDC beneficiaries to make loans to others;

    -and reduces application and compliance fees for small businesses in order to encourage local entrepreneurs to seek EDC benefits.

    Click here for the rest

    Posted by afinta at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

    August 13, 2005

    Nancy Anderson Quoted in the NY Times

    From The New York TImes:

    Nancy Anderson has to work harder than do most real estate agents to keep her vacationing tenants happy. As the president of McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas in St. Thomas, which rents properties throughout the British and the United States Virgin Islands and in Grenada, she faces the dichotomy of trying to serve impatient clients on the islands - where patience is a necessity.

    "Whether you are renting ski houses in Steamboat Springs or beach houses in Nantucket, the clients we are now all dealing with have sky-high expectations," she said. "Just trying telling a client that they can't listen to music by the pool because there is an islandwide power outage or that the Jacuzzi isn't working because we have to order a broken part from California."

    Then there are the children, who, Ms. Anderson said, have their own expectations - including a DVD player and DVD's and access to instant messaging.

    The whole thing is below the fold.

    August 12, 2005 DVD's! Wi-Fi! The Race to Woo Renters With Extras

    LAST summer, Steve Messinger, owner of a two-bedroom summer lake house in Chautauqua, N.Y., decided to put a washer and dryer in the cottage that had once belonged to his parents so he could rent it out. "To me a washer and dryer qualified as amenities," said Mr. Messinger, who grew up spending summers in the house on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution.

    Hardly. Had he talked to Joanna Dahlbeck, director of rentals at the Vacation Properties Group, which handles 155 condominiums and houses in the Chautauqua area, he would have quickly learned that a washer and dryer are now a requirement.

    "Ten years ago, we had properties that had no television, no phones, no clock radios and no laundry machines," Ms. Dahlbeck said. "Basically, no creature comforts. Now, we ask all owners to have some kind of dial-up access for computers and a television, preferably one with a remote control. Since 9/11, renters want some kind of visual contact with the outside world.

    "We don't insist on air-conditioning," Ms. Dahlbeck added, "but after this summer's heat wave that could also become more of a necessity."

    Even Ms. Dahlbeck's list barely cuts it in today's rental-house market. "I have customers who want an espresso maker, extra cable channels, a gas - not charcoal - grill, nice china and a gourmet kitchen," said Joyce Nadeau, director of the Cape Cod rental division for Kinlin Grover GMAC. "The days of the old cape cottage with knotty pine are gone," she said. "And if the house has knotty pine, it has to be painted white."

    Renters increasingly only want houses with the amenities of their own homes, particularly at $4,000 to $5,000 a week for a lake house, or in the case of many of Ms. Nadeau's clients, $12,000 to $15,000 a week to be on the ocean. "The high-end clients in particular want the upscale feel of staying in a hotel resort but the privacy and comforts of staying in a home," she said.

    Luckily there are owners who live in the style to which many top-end tenants are accustomed. Don Wall, a retired data services salesman in Denver, rents out his 9-bedroom, 10-and-a-half-bathroom home in Beaver Creek, Colo., for about 18 weeks a year. The house, called Elk View, has a six-person Jacuzzi and a Finnish sauna, an exercise room, a heated boot room and a wine cellar and tasting room. It also has Wi-Fi; five TV's, including a 55-inch flat screen; Calphalon cookware; and a dining room that can seat 22. During Christmas week the house, which sleeps 20, costs $4,050 a night.

    Mr. Wall, who bought the house in 1996 with his brother-in law, Patrick Morris, a retired executive in St. Louis, insists that their own families like the luxury touches as much as the renters do. "I like making the house grander and grander for our family," he said, adding that he would have put in a heated driveway had it not been so large. "But our renters appreciate it. I had one Big Cigar come by who wanted to rent it, and he said to me the moment he saw the master bedroom: 'I don't have to look any further. I have those same Charisma sheets on my bed at home.' "

    Mr. Wall and Mr. Morris, who handle the renting themselves, also offer prearrival delivery of rental skis, groceries and liquor as well as complimentary transportation in Beaver Creek.

    "We know everyone in town, so it isn't difficult for us to organize," Mr. Wall said. "And again, we do it for ourselves when we are here, so why not offer it to renters?"

    Indeed, services like stocking the refrigerator ahead of time are becoming standard for high-end renters. "Easily, the biggest difference I have seen in the marketplace is the demand for concierge services," said Mary Connolly, who with her brother, Michael, owns Peak Properties in Vail, Colo., which caters primarily to executives and their families. "They don't just want the nice house, they want massages, dinner reservations, a ski instructor and a chef. We provide all of that," said Ms. Connolly, who in ski season has a staff of 20.

    Nancy Anderson has to work harder than do most real estate agents to keep her vacationing tenants happy. As the president of McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas in St. Thomas, which rents properties throughout the British and the United States Virgin Islands and in Grenada, she faces the dichotomy of trying to serve impatient clients on the islands - where patience is a necessity.

    "Whether you are renting ski houses in Steamboat Springs or beach houses in Nantucket, the clients we are now all dealing with have sky-high expectations," she said. "Just trying telling a client that they can't listen to music by the pool because there is an islandwide power outage or that the Jacuzzi isn't working because we have to order a broken part from California."

    Then there are the children, who, Ms. Anderson said, have their own expectations - including a DVD player and DVD's and access to instant messaging.

    IT often falls to agents to inform owners that their houses don't make the amenities cut. "It's a delicate situation to go into someone's house and say that Brady Bunch furniture has to go or your taste stinks," said Ms. Connolly of Peak Properties. "So instead we say to make money you have to invest money. You have to put a TV in every bedroom, put in the steam shower, install the granite kitchen counters."

    Heather Maitre of Ramsey, N.J., who with her husband, Frank, owns a five-bedroom log home at Okemo in Vermont, knows the value of upgrading a house. During New Year's week, their newly built cabin, which has a game room with a mahogany pool table and two outdoor Jacuzzis with waterfalls, rents for $1,200 a night. "These days you can buy a new TV for $300, find beautiful bed comforters and sheets for $50 to $60 at Kohl's and purchase someone's old video library for next to nothing on eBay," Ms. Maitre said. "And then you can, of course, charge more for your home."

    Some people, of course, opt out of the amenities race. Gail Rodgers owns a three-property compound on a large pond in Chatham on Cape Cod and rents out two of the two-bedroom cottages each summer. They do not have air-conditioning, fancy kitchens or outdoor showers. But she does leave a vase of flowers and a book filled with local information for each tenant. And while similar properties rent for about $2,000 a week, Ms. Rodgers asks no more than $1,800 for each of hers. "Many people tell me I could charge much more, but I like the people who come to me now and don't want to necessarily attract a higher-paying renter," she said.

    And even though Mr. Messinger in Chautauqua hasn't put in a river rock fireplace, he hasn't had any trouble renting his house this summer for $2,500 a week. "Hey, it could be a lot worse," he said. "A guy down the road from us makes the renters change their own beds at the end of their stay!"

    Posted by afinta at 12:55 AM | Comments (1)

    August 08, 2005

    V.I. Government Moves to Take Lindqvist Beach

    This is good news - of course the government screwed aroud for awhile and could have done this at a much better price, but the fact they did it is great. Personally I would like to see more effort put into this property and let the developers have what they want at Vessup Bay and the East End. There really isn't much to save there in my eyes, but Lindqvist could be turned into a beautiful park/beach.

    Aug. 4, 2005 –– At 2 p.m. Thursday, Lindqvist Beach became the property of the Virgin Islands. Court papers were filed Thursday afternoon which –– after years of anxiety and public concern –– finally give the beach back to the community.

    The pristine beach, which sits on 21 acres near Smith Bay, has been a well-loved spot for family gatherings, picnics and parties for years. Its sparkling white shoreline creates one of the territory's most desirable beaches.

    Today's action, in effect, divests from the owners of the property –– Virgin Island Investments, LLC –– who were in the process of developing the last East End beach to the V. I. government. Elliot Mac Davis, solicitor general, said Thursday afternoon, "The action of eminent domain filed pursuant to the V. I. Code by virtue of filing the action exercises the government's authority under eminent domain."

    Read the rest here

    Posted by afinta at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

    August 05, 2005

    Negotiations for Developing Maho Bay Are Under Way

    There is a story in the St. John Source about the possible development of Maho. I don't see any mention of a public school being built there, which only a few months ago seemed like a real possibility. One interesting paragraph:

    "Dudley said that today, no agency would allow a road to be built that close to the shore, but when the North Shore Road was built in 1961, people were less environmentally aware."

    From what I have heard (and I think there are pictures that can support this) Maho was one of the largest beaches on St. John - width wise. Now it is really quite narrow. The reason is that there was so much sand there that the Army Corp of Engineers took that sand to fill in the marsh at Cruz Bay where the Westin is. Back then what they didn't understand was how the beaches formed and assumed the beach would come back - it never did. So even though the road is close to the beach, it originally was probably much further from the water line.

    Posted by afinta at 10:28 AM | Comments (3)

    August 04, 2005

    Innovative Threatens Action Against Belize Government

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    What a hoot - more Innovative shenanigans. How Prosser gets away with this stuff is beyond me. I am not going to be surprised the day the feds come after him.

    Aug. 3, 2005 - Innovative Communication Corp. threatened about everything but invading the country if the Belize government passes a proposal to seize what ICC considers its own assets in that Central American country.

    Rumors had been going through the country that the Belize Legislature was planning to pass legislation to cancel the special share of the Belizean phone company owned by ICC. The rumors became a news story on Tuesday as a TV station reported the action was imminent.

    Virgin Islanders are concerned because the money used to buy other shares of the Belizean phone company was borrowed from the V.I. telephone company, formerly known as Vitelco, which is now owned by ICC. (See "Vitelco Still Waiting for ICC to Repay Loan".)

    Click here to read the rest

    Posted by afinta at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

    August 03, 2005

    WICO Head Looks to Strong Winter Season

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    Aug 2, 2005 – The perception that the Caribbean is a safe destination coupled with the strong value of the euro against the dollar means St. Thomas should have a good winter cruise ship season.

    "We expect a 3 percent growth in the number of passengers," West Indian Co. chief executive officer Edward Thomas said Tuesday.

    The cruise ship lines have already reported strong bookings, Thomas said, adding that he expects the growth to reach 7 percent the following year.

    While the number of ships calling isn't on the upswing, Thomas said ships are growing in size. He said that when he took over the WICO helm 11 years ago, the average ship held 400 people. Today, on a day when three ships are in port, the number of passengers visiting St. Thomas could reach 10,000.

    Click here for the rest:

    Posted by afinta at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

    July 30, 2005

    St. Croix To Be Studied for National Heritage Status

    From The St. Thomas Source:

    July 28, 2005- Getting on board with efforts to revitalize St. Croix, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing National Heritage areas throughout the island.

    "I can think of no more fitting place that should be studied for possible designation as a National Heritage Area than my home island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands," Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen said.

    According to a recent press release, Christensen pitched the island to national representatives by playing up its cultural and historical achievements. "The island of St. Croix has a long, distinguished and varied history, including being the site where Christopher Columbus first stepped onto what is now American soil," the delegate said.

    Click here to read the rest

    Posted by afinta at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

    July 27, 2005

    Red Hook Group Vows to Continue Vessup Beach Fight

    From the St. Thomas Source:
    The Red Hook Community Alliance has no plans to give up in its efforts at saving Vessup Beach -- a battle the nonprofit organization has been waging for more than a year. On Monday evening, the group met to discuss its next plan of action. Click here for the rest

    Posted by afinta at 06:46 PM | Comments (0)

    June 30, 2005

    Emile Griffith returns to the USVI: An exclusive interview

    ST THOMAS, USVI: The first thing I noticed about Emile Griffith was his smile. It could definitely light up any room. He also has a firm hand shake, and a strikingly muscular stance. Dressed in 'stylish casual', the six time world champ wore a pair of gold boxing gloves on a gold chain around his neck.

    With Mr. Griffith were his daughter, Christine, who owns a vending business on St. Thomas, and adopted son, Louise, who resides with him in New York. The four of us set out on foot for a short walk to a tattoo parlor near the Havensight cruise ship docks.

    Click here for the whole story from Caribbean Net News

    Posted by afinta at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

    June 07, 2005

    Cruzan Rum

    When I was in the states in April I noticed a markedly higher profile for Cruzan Rum - it was in the bar of an Asbury Park, NJ restaurant I was in and I also noticed it on North Carolina when my buddies and I were on a golf trip. When I got back to St. Thomas I did a little poking around and found out about the company that actually owns Cruzan now, and there pretty aggresive plans for marketing Cruzan and the other rums they bottle. Seemed like an interesting story.

    Today brings this news:


    Investors of Cruzan International had reason to celebrate Monday after the company's shares surged 87 percent. Shots, anyone?

    The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company, which produces and distributes the Cruzan line of rums from the Virgin Islands, said late Friday that Sweden's state-owned liquor company V&S Vin Spirit had agreed to buy a controlling stake for $28.37 a share. That's nearly double the stock's price a month ago.

    Wish I would have bought some of the stock!

    Posted by afinta at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

    June 01, 2005

    Postman arrested for theft when wife unwittingly returns gold

    CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) - Authorities arrested a U.S. postal employee who allegedly stole two gold bars from a package, only to have his wife unwittingly return the bars to the store that mailed them, court documents showed Friday.

    The wife took the bars to the West Indian Creations Jewelry store in the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas, trying to have them made into jewelry, according to a statement by U.S. Postal Inspections officer Richard Santamaria.

    The store employees recognized the unique-looking bars because they had accidentally been mixed with another metal and had been bent. The Attleboro, Mass. shop where the bars were to have been sent had called the previous day to report the package had arrived empty.

    The employees notified postal inspectors, who set a trap for the woman's husband, Elmo David. The inspectors rigged a box of jewelry with a transmitter that would alert them if it was opened.

    David was alone at the Air Mail Facility at Cyril E. King Airport when the transmitter went off Thursday morning, Santamaria said.

    Posted by afinta at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

    May 25, 2005

    WICO to shift night traffic to Crown Bay

    The Daily News has an article today about the Crown Bay cruise ship dock.

    "We will be shifting some of our night traffic into the Crown Bay port," Thomas said, speaking at a session of UVI's 11th annual Summer Institute for Future Global Leaders of the Caribbean. "The West Indian Co. will basically be a daytime operation." "

    I think this whole project is in a bit of trouble - I have heard rumors that there are basically no tenants, and the rents are very high. If ships are not regularly scheduled how are the potential tenants going to survive? I want this project to work for the benfit of the island, but it seems to have a long way to go and a lot of hurdles in the way. Read the article here.

    Posted by afinta at 12:36 PM | Comments (2)

    May 23, 2005

    All of Water Island is now officially part of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    From the Daily News:

    Gov. Charles Turnbull executed the quitclaim deed for the territory to purchase the final 200 acres of the island owned by the U.S. Interior Department for $10 on Monday, St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator James O'Bryan Jr. said. On Wednesday, the document was officially recorded in the Tax Assessor's Office, solidifying the transfer.

    "This is a proud and historic day for the people of the Virgin Islands as we have now taken full ownership of the fourth largest island which comprises the Virgin Islands," Turnbull said in a written statement issued Friday.

    Water Island, at 500 acres, is the fourth-largest island in the territory and is located south of the Sub Base area. For years, the federal government leased land on the island to people who developed it over the years. Since the early 1990s, those tenants began purchasing the leased properties - 250 acres in all - directly from the Department of the Interior. Jurisdiction over the land purchased by those owners transferred to the territory when they were sold, and the territory has been receiving property taxes from those lands for several years.

    In 1996, the transfer of remaining federal land on Water Island began with 50 acres - most of the island's roads, beaches and other public areas - switching hands from the Interior Department to the territory. The intent was always to eventually transfer all of the government-owned property to the territory, O'Bryan said.

    Click here for the whole article.

    Posted by afinta at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

    May 13, 2005

    Group Doesn't Want to Give Up Land for St. John

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    May 12, 2005 – Members of the Hassel Island Preservation Trust Inc. are concerned about a proposed land swap between the V.I. government and the V.I. National Park Service. The government is currently negotiating to exchange nine-tenths of an acre of land on Hassel Island for 10 acres of land near Maho Bay on St. John from the National Park Service for the construction of a high school. However, The Hassel Island Preservation Trust doesn't like the proposal because the Hassel Island parcel is the only remaining public land on the approximately 200-acre island, and it houses three historic relics – Cowell's Battery on Signal Hill, Fort Willoughby and the Garrison House. The National Park and individuals own the rest of Hassel Island. Rik Van Rensselaer, president of the Hassel Island Preservation Trust, said Thursday his organization was "disgusted" with the government negotiations. "It's all been done quietly," Van Rensselaer said. "We feel the properties on Hassel Island belong to the people, and if they're going to swap it, the decision needs to be made by the people."
    There is more here.

    Posted by afinta at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

    March 15, 2005

    This is good news for us

    One of the few bright spots of the Department of Tourisms efforts in selling the territory was Martin PR out of Virginia, and especially the efforts there of Luana Wheatley. So what does the DT do? Fire Martin and go with a new firm. Their loss is the gain of the Hotel & Tourism Association (of which we are a member in good standing). This is from the Daily News:

    Luana Wheatley, longtime manager of public relations for the V.I. Tourism Department, has taken a new position as marketing director with the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association.

    Wheatley's move to represent the private sector comes one month after the V.I. Tourism Department announced it was changing public relations agencies.

    The V.I. Tourism Department announced in February that it had replaced its public relations agency of nine years, Martin Public Relations, with M. Booth & Associates of New York after a comprehensive public relations account review.

    Wheatley, who was the V.I. government's account supervisor with Martin Public Relations, took her new position working on behalf of the private sector on March 1.

    "I am proud of my past work with the USVI and am happy to continue to participate in the marketing effort," Wheatley said. "The hoteliers have supported me since I was a fledgling in this industry and I am excited to use my experience to help promote our wide variety of products to the travel consumer."

    "We are very excited that Luana has agreed to join our team," said Beverly Nicholson, President of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association. "She brings a wealth of experience that will assist the association with its strategic plan to market aggressively the accommodations, attractions, dining, activities and retail opportunities of the membership. Her appointment will allow us to expand our overall marketing and public relations efforts as she directs the plans of our Cooperative Marketing Initiative."

    A Virgin Islands native, Wheatley spent the past nine years with Martin Public Relations. In that position, she managed the territory's strategic public relations efforts, including the distribution of updates to national and international media, press tours, special event planning, trade show coordination, photo and film shoots, crisis communications, and production of promotional materials. Before working in the travel industry, she spent years in radio and as a window dresser and event planner.

    Posted by afinta at 02:47 PM

    March 12, 2005

    Underwater Explorer Returns, Finds Fewer Fish

    From the St. Thomas Source:

    March 11, 2005 –– While the reef structure still looks good, most of the big fish are gone, acclaimed oceanographer Sylvia Earle said Friday after she dove at Lameshur Bay, St. John.      "Nobody's home. I didn't even see a barracuda," she said.      Earle is in the Virgin Islands to help the Ocean Conservancy launch its book, "The State of the Coral Reefs of the U.S. Virgin Islands."

    Click here for the whole article

    While I don't doubt there are fewer fish around than there were 35 years ago, statements like this seem a little simplistic and silly. Who has snorkeled in the Virgin Islands and not seen a barracuda at one point? She goes down for one dive, doesn't see a barracuda and makes it sound like there are none left? Maybe it is just the quote standing by itself but it doesn't make a lot of sense to make statements like this.

    Posted by afinta at 11:56 AM | Comments (1)

    February 18, 2005

    Former Saks Fifth Avenue Veteran Joins Island Capital Group; Affluent Lifestyle Destination Concept to Launch in U.S. Virgin Islands

    NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 16, 2005--Island Capital Group, LLC today announced that it has named former Saks Fifth Avenue marketing veteran Sheri Wilson-Gray to build the brand essence of its Yacht Haven initiative, a new lifestyle destination concept designed for the affluent customer drawn to the boating lifestyle.

    Plans are underway for the first Yacht Haven in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands (USVI), where a world-class mega-yacht marina will be enriched by an upscale destination center including shopping, dining, entertainment and leisure activities for tourists, yacht owners and residents alike. The facility is directly adjacent to one of the busiest cruise-ship destination ports in the western hemisphere, where almost two million passengers per year come to visit.

    "The St. Thomas location is the ideal site to launch our Yacht Haven concept due to its unique location at the very nexus of land, air and water transportation for the entire eastern Caribbean," said Andrew Farkas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Island Capital Group. "The strength of the yachting industry, together with an explosive growth in the mega yacht segment have created an opportunity to build a new lifestyle model around luxury marinas," said Mr. Farkas. Prior to forming Island Capital, Mr. Farkas was the founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of Insignia Financial Group, one of the world's largest real estate services companies that was merged with CB Richard Ellis in 2003.

    Sheri Wilson-Gray, former Chief Marketing Officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, will create the core attributes of the Yacht Haven brand. With extensive expertise in building world-class brands, Ms. Wilson-Gray has joined as Executive Vice President and will direct all sales and leasing opportunities to ensure the right selection of stores, entertainment, and accommodations to meet this affluent consumer's needs.

    Phase 1 of the Yacht Haven project is scheduled for completion during the first quarter in 2006 and will include approximately 80,000 sq ft high-end retail, 31,000 sq ft office, four waterfront restaurants and an exclusive private yacht club. Twelve luxury condominiums and a variety of marina services are also scheduled during phase 1. Ultimately, the Yacht Haven project will include a conference center, additional high-end retail and a 70-room boutique hotel.

    "This is a new twist on the lifestyle destination concept driven by the need for new luxury experiences," said Ms. Wilson-Gray, who will report to Elie Finegold, President of the Yacht Haven project. "I am excited to build this concept with such an accomplished group of real estate professionals."

    "We are thrilled to have attracted a seasoned veteran like Sheri with a track record of building strong relationships with luxury brands," said Mr. Finegold. "Sheri has an intimate understanding of this affluent consumer's wants and needs, which will be instrumental in the development of the Yacht Haven concepts."

    About Island Capital Group, LLC

    Island Capital Group, LLC is a real estate merchant banking firm specializing in real estate development, real estate securities and securitization. The company owns various interests in real estate and real estate securities with an aggregate capitalization in excess of $1 billion. The Company is developing luxury marinas in key locations around the world that will include commercial, entertainment and leisure activities for tourists, yacht owners and residents alike. The Yacht Haven project has been financed by a group of prominent investors led by Andrew Farkas.

    Posted by afinta at 11:09 AM

    February 11, 2005

    Jeffrey Prosser Strikes Again!

    From the AP:

    Belize Seizes Telephone Company From U.S

    Belize has seized control of a telecommunications company that it sold to a U.S. Virgin Islands firm last year, saying the private firm has failed to pay for controlling shares, the Belize government said Friday.

    St. Croix-based Innovative Communication Corp, LLC has not paid $57 million for a 52.5 percent stake in Belize Telecommunications, Belize Prime Minister Said Musa said in a written statement.

    The Belize government, which signed the deal with Innovative in March, is now offering to sell the shares to local investors, Musa said. Belize officials declined to comment further.

    Belize Telecommunications provides about 108,000 fixed phones and cellular lines in Belize, making it the Central American country's biggest provider.

    Lanny Davis, a lawyer for the St. Croix company, acknowledged Innovative did not make the payments but did not explain why. He said the company has invested or assumed obligations amounting to more than $75 million, expanding and improving services throughout Belize.

    Davis said Innovative would try to reach an agreement with the Belize government to keep control of the company, however.

    Belize government's actions "have no legal basis ... and are contrary to corporate governance rules," he said.

    Innovative also owns companies controlling a media network that includes Innovative Telephone, Innovative Cable TV, and The Daily News newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    The company employees 660 people in the U.S. Virgin Islands and provides telephone service to more than 73,000 people.

    Posted by afinta at 10:29 PM

    February 04, 2005

    Lots of St. John real estate news

    Our friend Frank Barnako has a run down on many recent happenings in the St. John real estate market. There is a new marina planned for Coral Bay, a new shopping center in Coral Bay (beginning to see a pattern here?), and a new housing development - in CORAL BAY! Hey, maybe it isn't too late to still buy real estate there. We have also heard via the coconut telegraph that there are plans for a second marina in... Coral Bay. You would think that a U.S. Customs check point, ferry service to the B.V.I. and more would follow... maybe they can stuff an airport out there somewhere?

    Posted by afinta at 01:56 PM

    V.I. anglers' outcry answered, restrictions eased

    From the VI Daily News:

    Local fishermen are calling last week's meeting of the Caribbean Fishery Management Council a preliminary victory in the battle over fishing regulations in federal waters surrounding the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

    The council had considered closing specific areas of the federal waters to all fishing, either all year or in certain months.

    Among local fishermen, a bone of contention has been that the council used data from Puerto Rico in its draft document without considering 30 years of catch data from V.I. fishermen. The V.I. fishing industry relies on federal waters, which begin three miles offshore of the Virgin Islands, compared with nine miles off Puerto Rico shores.

    Responding to those concerns, the council met last week in Puerto Rico and decided to recommend less-severe restrictions than those originally proposed.

    "What we got was significant," said David Olsen, staff scientist for the St. Thomas Fishermen's Association, who attended the meeting in Puerto Rico.

    Read the rest here

    Posted by afinta at 11:01 AM

    February 02, 2005

    Here is an idiotic article -

    From the Daily Californian comes this poorly researched article:

    Pathogen of the Week: Ciguatera Fish Poisoning

    Contributing Writer
    Wednesday, February 2, 2005

    The next time you’re at a ritzy seafood restaurant in the Virgin Islands beware: you could be the victim of Ciguatera fish poisoning. Contaminated tropical reef fish have the ability to cause symptoms within a few minutes of digestion.

    Dinoflagellates are the microscopic sea plants that produce the ciguatoxins that result in ciguatera poisoning. The toxicity increases as a large fish eats the small fish that ate the dinoflagellates, thus the large predatory tropical reef fish usually contain the highest concentrations of toxicity. (there's more...)

    Anyway - where does something like this even come from? Have you ever known of a "ritzy" V.I. restaurant that serves reef fish? This is just such a stupid commentary I don't even know how to explain it. I scratch my head when people write stuff like this.

    Posted by afinta at 09:46 AM | Comments (2)

    Address draws mixed reaction from both critics and supporters By TIM FIELDS and MEGAN POINSKI

    From the Daily News:

    ST. THOMAS - While some senators said Gov. Charles Turnbull's 2005 State of the Territory speech painted an encouraging picture of the government's financial future, most said the governor failed to address chronic problems such as crime, education and procurement.

    Senate President Lorraine Berry said, "The governor was upbeat in his outlook, but I think he should be tempered by the challenges before us."

    Sen. Terrence Nelson said Turnbull's speech was "very promising" and he looks forward to the implementation of the governor's ideas, especially promises to help St. Croix.

    "I hope the governor is really serious about what he said about addressing our problems with us in a holistic way," Nelson said. "I've heard the same things before. I want to make sure he's not just talking and that he will pursue these things in a realistic way."

    Sen. Neville James said Turnbull gave a heartening speech, and agreed with Nelson on the need for action.

    "He is looking ahead. We need to act instead of react," James said. "I look forward to seeing what the executive branch will have to offer."

    Sen. Craig Barshinger said Turnbull gave a brilliant speech, but hoped his words were not empty.

    "He was even inspirational," Barshinger said. "I hope this is a speech for more than tonight. I hope each and every day for the next two years he wakes up and makes this a reality."

    One thing missing from the speech, Barshinger said, was misuse of public funds

    Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone also said Turnbull should have mentioned problems with the procurement code.

    "That is the center of much of the corruption," Malone said.

    Malone said Turnbull gave an "honest" assessment of the state of the territory from increasing revenues to concerns about how new federal tax laws will affect the territory's Economic Development Commission tax-incentive program.

    Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste criticized Turnbull's statement that raises for government employees will be considered only after he knows the fallout from changes to the tax laws, while money to fund the new Virgin Islands Supreme Court is a top priority.

    Though many senators appreciated Turnbull's call to arms to save St. Croix, Jn Baptiste said it is too little, too late.

    "He's been six years in that office and now he's saying St. Croix needs urgent attention. Has he been fast asleep?" he said.

    Sen. Liston Davis also questioned Turnbull's sudden activism toward St. Croix.

    "Now he said he's personally addressing the charge to bring more cruise ships to St. Croix. Is that a voice of no confidence in the Tourism commissioner?" Davis said.

    Davis listed a number of topics Turnbull did not address, including the homeless, school repairs, road repairs, relocating Vendor's Plaza on St. Thomas, improving mass transit and reducing traffic. Turnbull mentioned crime, Davis said, but offered no solutions for fighting it.

    Sen. Pedro Encarnacion agreed that action is needed to fight crime.

    "He indicated that you can see progress taking place, but safety isn't here. There is a rising crime rate. The rising safety needs should have been addressed," said Encarnacion, who is chairman of the Senate Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice Committee.

    Sen. Ronald Russell said that the lack of vocational and technical training in schools should have been addressed.

    In his address, Turnbull became passionate in his disapproval of Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen's proposal to create a chief financial officer, much to Christensen's surprise. The bill does not take any power away from the territory, and she will not withdraw it, she said.

    "The people of the Virgin Islands were very clear that this is what they want," Christensen said. "You have to listen to the people who elected you."

    Sen. Louis Hill, Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville and Sen. Roosevelt David said the people must have a say in formulating a territorial constitution. They issued unanimous disapproval of Turnbull's idea to convert the Revised Organic Act into a constitution.

    David said he believes the Revised Organic Act is a "colonial" document and that "we've grown beyond that." Figueroa-Serville said that the constitution should be created and not just "handed to us."

    Sen. Adlah Donastorg Jr. said Turnbull mentioned his concern about the environment and quality of life territorywide but actions speak louder than words.

    "The true test of the pudding is in the taste. You have to produce," Donastorg said.

    Sen. Celestino White Sr. had little to say about Turnbull's address.

    White said he is still trying to digest it and that nothing stood out, "It was little bits of things that have been promised before."

    Posted by afinta at 09:43 AM

    February 01, 2005

    State of the Territory Address tonight

    A year ago, Gov. Charles Turnbull declared the Virgin Islands' economy in initial stages of recovery and said with "cautious optimism" that better times were ahead in his State of the Territory Address.

    Turnbull trumpeted the Economic Development Commission tax-incentive program as one of the "key elements in our fiscal recovery plan." The program lures businesses to the islands with attractive tax breaks - up to 100 percent of personal income taxes.

    "In addition to creating good paying jobs for our young people with business and accounting degrees and generating substantial revenues for the government, the EDC program is continuing to have a positive effect throughout our economy," Turnbull said.

    What a difference a year makes.

    In October, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a bill that brings strict new residency and source of income rules to EDC beneficiaries. The rules state that business owners must spend 183 days a year in the territory and that all money made on the U.S. mainland would no longer be eligible for the tax breaks the program provides.

    Months later, the impact of those new rules looms as an ominous question mark. The territory is waiting on the results of an economic analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    Turnbull, local politicians and EDC representatives have been in close contact with the federal government, hoping to persuade the U.S. Treasury Department to create exceptions to the new rules that are favorable to the program so that beneficiaries do not leave the territory. At least four businesses have indicated to the V.I. Labor Department they will shut down operations in the territory because of the changes in the law, according to documents released last week.

    In tonight's State of the Territory speech, Turnbull is sure to address the economic impact of the changes to the EDC laws and may have numbers to back up his analysis. On Friday, Government House spokesman James O'Bryan Jr. was tight-lipped about what the governor may say, but he promised Turnbull will not beat around the bush.

    "He is going to be straightforward and frank," O'Bryan said.

    The territory's economic condition historically has dominated Turnbull's State of the Territory addresses, and this year should be no different.

    In April, Turnbull presented a sobering budget forecast to Democratic senators. The analysis, prepared by Banc of America Securities, projected that the territory will have a $92.4 million deficit by the end of Fiscal Year 2005 - including a $9.5 million General Fund shortfall.

    "Reliance on one-time revenue sources and long-term debt are not sustainable solutions," Turnbull wrote. "Tough choices must be made immediately to prevent acute financial distress in the future. We must substantially reduce the cost of government operations."

    The FY 2005 budget attempted to do that, with Turnbull trimming his proposal to $565 million - $25 million less than he proposed for the FY 2004 budget. Three new taxes were included in Turnbull's proposal, all of which were taken out by the Senate.

    The Senate passed a $607 million budget, which was signed into law - except for about $10 million for negotiated raises for unionized government employees and V.I. Legislature staff. With the uncertainty caused by the changes to federal laws governing the EDC tax incentive program, Turnbull said the territory may not be able to sustain the raises.

    All of the financial news in the last year was not bad, however. The Federal Emergency Management Agency forgave the territory's $185 million loan for damages caused in Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, and Internal Revenue Bureau Director Louis Willis said that tax collections are improving.

    With economic decline, increasing jobless rates, high crime, mixed messages on government tourism promotion and a perception among residents of government apathy, the future of St. Croix is likely to consume a large portion of Turnbull's speech.

    Though many of the issues that face St. Croix are not new, voters in November brought the island's plight to the forefront. Four of the seven senators representing St. Croix are new, and the freshman at-large senator won his seat from St. Croix votes. The 26th Legislature is setting St. Croix's concerns at the top of their agenda, and talk of re-energizing the island is on the lips of the territory's policymakers.

    Last year, Turnbull trumpeted more than $45 million in expected capital projects coming to St. Croix in his State of the Territory Address. Many of these projects, including road repairs and the restoration of Times Square, are under way or completed.

    However, road repairs are not a solution to the island's flagging economy. According to the V.I. Bureau of Labor Statistics, St. Croix's unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in November - 2Â percent higher than that on St. Thomas.

    Tourism, while slowly increasing on St. Croix, is nowhere near the volume on St. Thomas. The lack of a comprehensive plan from the V.I. government to bring more cruise ships to St. Croix - as they promised to provide to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association in 2001 - has raised suspicions about the government's sincerity in efforts to reinvigorate tourism.

    Turnbull, a former Education commissioner, is sure to praise the territory's public high schools for being close to regaining accreditation.

    In late 2004, two of the territory's high schools - Charlotte Amalie and Ivanna Eudora Kean - received approval for reaccreditation from a visiting team of academic professionals representing the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools. Central High School and St. Croix Educational Complex will host Middle States visiting teams this year.

    While getting closer to accreditation is praiseworthy, educators, students and parents have loudly protested the physical condition of the schools and department-wide policies throughout the last year. The education community spent much of the last year trying to get Turnbull to notice their plight.

    Most recently, protests over the condition of facilities shook Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. A written response provided completion dates for two short-term projects at the school, but left out several long-term problems - such as rebuilding classrooms destroyed by arson in November.

    Cancryn is not the only school that has expressed problems to Turnbull. Educators and students from Kean marched on Government House in October to protest the lack of an alternative education program for troubled students. Several other schools had unscheduled days off this year because of sewage on campus or transfers of educators.

    Turnbull is likely to mention the territory's ongoing war on crime but having recently vetoed a comprehensive bill to bring major reforms to criminal justice, he will have to be careful in choosing his words.

    At the close of the 25th Legislature, senators unanimously approved the Omnibus Justice Bill of 2004, which would have established a panel of civilians to review allegations of serious crimes against law enforcement officers and update laws regarding stalking, child pornography, drunken driving, drugs, child custody and human trafficking. Turnbull vetoed the entire bill, saying several sections "are in need of additional fine-tuning."

    Meanwhile, crime in the territory is on the rise, going against the downward trend of violence in the rest of the United States. According to recent statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, violent crime in the territory rose 13 percent in the first half of 2004. In the rest of the country, violent crime fell 2 percent.

    Looking at all of 2004, violent crime was on the upswing. In 2003, the territory saw 30 homicides, 134 robberies and 44 shootings. Last year, there were 36 homicides, 153 armed robberies and 68 shootings, according to statistics compiled by The Daily News.

    The one thing that has soundly improved territorywide in the last year is tourism, and Turnbull is sure to talk about the increasing numbers of visitors.

    According to recent statistics from the V.I. Bureau of Economic Research, more than 2 million people visited the territory during the first 10 months of 2004 - an 11.3 increase over visitors in 2003.

    Cruise ship calls, passengers traveling by air and hotel occupancy all are on the rise territorywide. Biweekly Danish charter flights to St. Croix starting last year have helped boost that island's air visitors and hotel occupancy.

    Several long-awaited capital projects are finally on their way to completion, and Turnbull will certainly recap their progress.

    After many years, the V.I. Waste Management Authority is finally a reality. The authority is responsible for the territory's waste disposal systems and is in charge of compliance with federal mandates to upgrade the territory's solid waste and sewer systems. To bring the territory into compliance with federal mandates, Turnbull signed a $123 million contract with VWNA Caribbean in April to design, build and manage two new wastewater treatment plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

    The former Yacht Haven Hotel, a dilapidated eyesore on St. Thomas for almost a decade, is finally being rebuilt. Property owners IN-USVI began demolishing the Havensight site's six buildings in March to make way for a more-than $150 million hotel-marina project.

    The Christiansted boardwalk extension, giving seaplane passengers arriving on St. Croix easier access to the downtown area, is in progress. The Crown Bay Cruise and Commercial Center is on target to be ready for businesses in May. The long-awaited dredging of St. John's Enighed Pond also should be finished this year.

    Posted by afinta at 09:43 PM

    January 20, 2005

    St. Thomas Hospital opposes surgical center

    Thursday, January 20th, 2005.

    By John Collins of Caribbean Business

    The granting of a certificate of need (CON) by U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Health Commissioner Darlene Carty for the establishment of a private ambulatory surgical center in St. Thomas is being challenged by the government-owned Roy E. Schneider Hospital.

    Attorney Henry Feuerzeig of the St. Thomas law firm of Dudley Topper & Feuerzeig asserts the CON “was granted without legal authority and in violation of the Virgin Islands Code,” and asks Carty “to withdraw or rescind it.”

    Indicating that without action by Carty, Feuerzeig said the hospital would take further appropriate action in court. Carty, on the other hand, stands by her decision to grant the certificate. She said the Attorney General’s Office is providing legal counsel to the Health Department, which she heads.

    Posted by afinta at 10:33 AM

    December 21, 2004

    Antique barometer stolen from Fort Christian Museum

    ST. THOMAS - An irreplaceable part of Virgin Islands history was stolen from the Fort Christian Museum, officials from the museum said, and they are appealing to whoever took the antique to return it.

    Museum personnel reported the theft about 4 p.m. Thursday. The item - described as an antique barometer - last was seen on display Wednesday morning, according to a Sunday statement from police.

    Myron Jackson, director of the V.I. State Historic Preservation Office, said the missing antique is a barometer that had been used to measure air pressure and could help determine whether a hurricane was imminent.

    Jackson said it hung on a wall in an enclosed antique furniture exhibition.

    "Someone went over and lifted it off the wall," Jackson said. "It's an unfortunate incident."

    Jackson said that because of the theft, future museum visitors must leave all their bags at the front before taking the self-guided tour.

    The barometer is encased in a dark mahogany frame and is very heavy because of the frame, metal and glasswork. There was no information Sunday about its age, but the police statement indicated it was valued at more than $100.

    Police urge anyone with information about the incident to contact the museum at 776-4566 or the V.I. Police Department at 774-2211. The information received will be kept confidential.

    Posted by afinta at 08:31 PM

    December 09, 2004

    Schneider Hospital is mulling options in wake of surgical center's approval

    This new out patient clinic/hospital things has been a brewing controversy for some time. I think it is a pretty complex issue, and Schneider Hospital seems to have made some great strides in the last few years. I would hate to see something new short circuit their revenues. This is a complex issue, I would like to hear opinions about it.

    By JOY BLACKBURN Tuesday, December 7th 2004

    ST. THOMAS - The controversy surrounding a proposed privately owned outpatient surgical center here does not appear likely to die down soon, despite the fact that the center has been granted a certificate of need by the Health commissioner.

    At a special hospital board meeting called Monday night, Schneider Hospital officials left open the possibility that the organization might pursue legal action in an attempt to stop development of the facility.

    Schneider Hospital Chief Executive Officer Rodney Miller distributed an unsigned, unaddressed document that he said was the only written notification the hospital had received about Health Commissioner Darlene Carty's decision to grant the certificate of need.

    Miller said he received the document via e-mail only after requesting it from Government House spokesman James O'Bryan Jr.

    Miller said hospital officials are still analyzing the document and its overall impact, but that "there are a number of things we will have to consider from a legal standpoint."

    The hospital has been a vocal opponent of the proposed surgical center, where outpatient procedures would be done and patients would not stay overnight.

    The doctors backing the proposal say the center will provide a much-needed service and a choice that will help stem the flow of residents going off-island for health care. Hospital officials counter that the facility would rob the hospital of insured patients and revenue-generating outpatient procedures, which could cripple its ability to provide other needed services to the community.

    The document says that "anyone can appeal the commissioner's decision, based on the grounds for reconsideration specified in the rules and regulations." Miller said hospital officials requested the rules and regulations from Carty on Monday to determine whether they have grounds to appeal the decision.

    He would not comment Monday on any specific action the hospital plans to take. Schneider Hospital officials have scheduled a press conference Thursday to respond to the decision.

    "I would say at this point, we are considering all options to preserve health care for the people of the Virgin Islands, specifically, the St. Thomas-St. John District," Miller said.

    Attorney David Bornn, who represents the doctors backing the facility, did not return a Daily News telephone call seeking comment Monday night.

    Posted by afinta at 11:37 AM

    December 08, 2004

    Isidor Paiewonsky dies

    ST. THOMAS - Isidor Paiewonsky, who was known as a gentleman, entrepreneur and scholar of the Virgin Islands, died peacefully Monday morning, surrounded by family members at Schneider Hospital.

    He was 95.

    One of his crowning achievements was helping to restore several Napoleonic-era ruins on Hassel Island and later giving much of the land to the National Park Service to be preserved for future generations.

    "Those were some of his great passions - historic preservation and restoration," said Filippo Cassinelli, Paiewonsky's grandson.

    Born Oct. 24, 1909 - while the Virgin Islands were still under Danish rule - on Synagogue Hill to parents Isaac and Rebecca Paiewonsky, he attended primary school on St. Thomas before continuing his education in New York.

    Click here for the rest of this article

    Posted by afinta at 07:00 PM

    December 07, 2004

    A nurse's aide who quit her job to take a cruise hit the jackpot.

    Carol Baird won a $321,694 slot machine jackpot aboard a Carnival Cruise Lines ship off the U.S. Virgin Islands early Wednesday.

    Baird, 59, quit her job after realizing she had booked her cruise in violation of her company's policy prohibiting personal vacation time seven days before or after a holiday.

    "When I booked the cruise, I didn't look at the calendar," Baird said Thursday.

    So she decided to quit her job at a nursing home after 17 years.

    Baird said she was playing the ship's MegaCash machine, featuring a fleet-wide progressive jackpot, with her husband gaming next to her. Initially she didn't realize she had struck the bonanza.

    "Now I'm glad I did (quit)," she said.

    Baird said she was going to get the jackpot payout in installments over six years "so I don't have to work."

    Posted by afinta at 10:51 AM

    December 04, 2004

    U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Calls for Coordinated Efforts to Avoid Adverse Impacts on Reefs; Launches Local Strategy Implementation

    MIAMI, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force called for improved interagency coordination to avoid adverse coral reef impacts during spawning season, and for the establishment of interagency working groups to develop standard mitigation protocols and best management practices, as they wrapped up a two-day meeting today in Miami.
    (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20041022/DCF003LOGO )

    "It is critical we strengthen efforts to insure the conservation of these marine resources," said Timothy Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and Task Force co-chair. "As the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy notes, healthy coral reefs support millions of dollars in economic activities in U.S. coastal communities and hold tremendous potential for pharmaceutical and medicinal products that can address human health needs. The actions we took today will help implement that conservation."

    The Task Force passed two resolutions during its 12th biannual meeting. The first recognized that corals are the primary reef builders that create habitat for tens of thousands of species of plant and animal life, and that as such their spawning periods are vital to their continued survival and those of the plants and animals who use the reefs as habitat.

    The Task Force called on all federal agencies conducting activities in coastal waters adjacent to or on coral reefs to assess activity impacts on coral reproduction and life cycles. It further called for development of additional forecasts of coral spawning events to help avoid impacts on coral reproduction.

    The second resolution called for the establishment of interagency working groups -- federal, state and territories -- to develop and "implement a more effective and efficient mitigation process for coral reef ecosystems." This effort is another step which reflects the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy's call for better coordination of ocean resource management. The Task Force further called for "fully considering support for the interagency working groups as a high priority for funding in applicable areas."

    In addition to the resolutions, a major outcome of the meeting was the full-scale launch of "Three-Year Local Action Strategies" in each of seven Task Force jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction has spent the past year developing these local strategies to translate national priorities into measurable local projects.

    White House Council of Environmental Quality chairman James L. Connaughton brought good news to this effort announcing that President Bush will request $2.7 million to support state and local coral conservation efforts to implement the strategies.

    "Better coordination of environmental efforts is always worthwhile," said Marshall Jones, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The Task Force is adopting a policy we know will lead to concrete improvements in how we protect our reefs."

    Local Action Strategies have been developed to bring the goals of the National U.S. Coral Reef Action Plan to the local level. They seek to address six priority threats to corals: over-fishing, land-based sources of pollution, recreational overuse and misuse, lack of public awareness, climate change and coral bleaching, and disease.

    "The implementation of these local action strategies has allowed the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force agencies to identify local needs, connect local priorities to national goals and better coordinate agency action in support of those efforts," noted Roger Griffis, coordinator of NOAA's coral reef conservation program.

    The seven jurisdictions impacted by these plans are Florida, Hawaii, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    The two-day public meeting featured an expert panel on building resilience in reef ecosystems in south Florida; a presentation on Australia's latest reef management efforts; and updates on key forthcoming reports including the State of U.S. Reefs, Reefs at Risk, and recent report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

    On the meetings opening day, two events highlighted the ongoing cooperation of U.S. agencies and Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). First, GBRMPA posthumously honored Nancy Foster, longtime NOAA scientist and administrator, with the naming of a section of the world's largest coral reef in her honor. Foster served in a variety of positions during a 23-year NOAA career, and is only the second American to receive the naming recognition. The other American honoree was famed ecologist Rachel Carson in 1996.

    The second U.S.-Australian announcement was that of a partnership between NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP), the State of Florida and the GBRMPA to improve coral reef resilience. Resilience is the natural ability of corals to survive and recover from stresses in the natural environment.

    "This unprecedented partnership reinforces Florida's commitment to protecting and restoring coral reefs," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen M. Castille. "Sharing the latest science expands our ability to accelerate global research and improve water quality, wildlife habitat and the resiliency of reefs worldwide."

    A series of workshop symposiums were also held in conjunction with the formal business meeting. These workshops were designed to educate Task Force agencies and the interested public about Florida's coral reef threats and conservation successes, and to fuel support and involvement in local initiatives. The workshops were free and were attended by federal, state and territory agency representatives; Florida coral reef managers and researchers; national and local conservation organizations; and the interested local public.

    Two individuals were presented with special "Coral Champion" awards for outstanding lifetime contributions to the conservation and management of coral reefs: Billy Causey, Superintendent for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and Joel Tutien, manager of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Coral Reef Monument.

    The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force biannual meeting has been scheduled for March 2-3, 2005, in Washington, D.C.

    Ten additional Coral Reef Task Force awards were presented to the following organizations or individuals in five categories:

    Outstanding Public Awareness and Education:

    John Hargis, Teacher/Educator, Palm Beach County School District, Florida Seacamp Association, Inc., Big Pine Key, Florida

    Outstanding Scientific Advancement of Knowledge:

    Robert Ginsburg, Ph.D., Professor of Marine Geology, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, Florida

    Walter Jaap, Ph.D., Coral Reef Ecologist, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Marine Research Institute
    Outstanding Community Level Participation:

    Peter Gladding, Private commercial fisherman, Florida (posthumous)

    Jay Cashmere, WPTV News Channel 5, Florida

    Ocean Watch Foundation, Lighthouse Point, Florida

    Outstanding Management -- National

    Hanalei Watershed Hui, Hanalei, Hawaii

    Outstanding Management -- International

    Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, Belize

    Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville, Australia

    A Presidential Executive Order established the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force in 1998 to lead U.S. efforts to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems. Through the coordinated efforts of its members, including representatives of 12 federal agencies, the governors of seven states and territories, and the leaders of the Freely Associated States, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force has helped lead U.S. efforts to protect and manage valuable coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and internationally. NOAA and Department of Interior co-chair the Task Force.

    NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.
    On the Web:
    NOAA -- http://www.noaa.gov
    U.S. Department of the Interior -- http://www.doi.gov
    U.S. Coral Reef Task Force -- http://www.coralreef.gov
    Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary -- http://floridakeys.noaa.gov
    Great Barrier Reef Marine Park -- http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au
    State of Florida DEP -- http://www.florida.dep.org

    Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Posted by afinta at 12:19 PM

    December 01, 2004

    St. Croix hopes to woo back tourists


    CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) - Despite its white sand beaches, coral reefs and historic sites including centuries-old sugar mills, St. Croix has been bypassed recently by most tourists cruising the Caribbean.

    That is about to change on Tuesday, as Royal Caribbean cruise ships begin making twice-weekly overnight stops in the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Click here for the rest

    Posted by afinta at 10:10 AM

    November 27, 2004

    St. Thomas experiencing record cruise arrivals

    "When St. Thomas merchants welcomed 12,646 passengers on five cruise ships last Tuesday, they knew their world-renowned harbor was in for a record winter. Like some other ports in the region, St. Thomas saw reduced cruise-passenger traffic during three weeks of storms. Nevertheless, it is set to end the year with a record of more than 1.9 million passengers, announced Edward E. Thomas, CEO of the West Indian Co., which hosts most of them. The majority of the passengers (nearly 1.4 million) arrived during the winter and the remainder during the summer."

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 11:01 PM

    November 19, 2004

    Was Saddam Hussein laundering oil in St. Croix?

    I haven't believed anything I have read in the NY Post in a long time, but here is an interesting tid-bit:

    There's a pleasantly cruel irony in the untold story of Saddam Hussein's oil billions, which were skimmed off during a supposed embargo imposed on Iraq.

    The oil that was sneaked out of Iraq probably came back to that country as jet fuel in U.S. fighter planes.

    As you may have read, the Senate Committee on Government Affairs earlier this week alleged that the former Iraqi leader got $21.3 billion from assorted kickbacks, surcharges and oil smuggling.

    A very well-placed source of mine says that during the embargo Iraqi oil was secreted and sent to a little-known Caribbean island called St. Eustatius in tankers controlled by a company located in Yemen.

    I've written briefly about the smuggling through St. Eustatius before, but only now does the U.S. government seem to be learning the extent of this and other similar operations.

    On St. Eustatius, nicknamed Statia, the Iraqi oil was put into huge holding tanks with crude from Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere until "it lost its identity," according to my source.

    From there much of the blended oil, including Saddam's, would be sent to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to be refined into jet fuel, much of which went to the U.S. Air Force.

    While each drop can't be tracked from there, it is highly likely that some of that fuel went into the planes that were used during the bombing of Iraq.

    So, in a very real sense, Saddam profited from the bombing of his own country. Now that is what I'd call a payback. And, as they say, it's a bitch.

    I was really skeptical about this story when it mentioned Statia - I was thinking how could such a tiny island have a large oil facility, but before I emailed the author to tell him he was full of it, I went poking around the web and what do you know - Statia Terminals...

    Posted by afinta at 02:54 PM | Comments (3)

    November 13, 2004

    Settlement reached in Kapok suit

    Amarillo Globe-News

    Amarillo plaintiffs and a Virgin Islands-based firm reached an out-of-court settlement this week in a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by investors who claimed they were victims of a fraudulent offshore tax-shelter scheme.

    In the wake of the Amarillo suit, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service warned potential investors in June to avoid questionable Virgin Islands tax shelters.

    The suit was filed earlier this year by MDS Holdings LLC, Michael D. Smith, ACF Management and Alvin Fults against Kapok Management, Peter C. Fagaon, James Ferguson CPA, Jonathana David Jackson CPA and the Horne CPA group.

    Kapok has been the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and one Kapok associate has pleaded guilty to criminal charges of attempting to evade U.S. tax laws.

    Parties in the case have not filed settlement documents, but advised the U.S. District Court in Amarillo that the case was settled after a mediation conference Wednesday.

    Details of the proposed settlement were unavailable Friday and the agreement is expected to be confidential.

    The Globe-News was unable to reach attorneys for the plaintiffs or defendants Friday for comment.

    According the suit:

    Ferguson, a CPA who had an Amarillo office in the same building as Fults and Smith, told the men they could cut their taxes using Kapok's tax strategy. The tax shelter's premise was to take advantage of Virgin Islands tax laws, which provided a 90-percent tax break in some cases.

    In February 2002, Smith and Fults entered into investment agreement with Kapok. Each paid $10,000 to Kapok as an invesment fee, and each paid $40,000 in consulting fees to Horne CPA group.

    Acting on advice from Ferguson, Fagan and Jackson, Smith and Fults established Virgin Islands residency, bought a condo there and set up an office. On May 20, 2003, IRS agents executed various search warrants at Kapok. IRS agents later told Smith and Fults the Kapok tax strategy was illegal and said they would go to prison if they filed tax returns based on the strategy.

    Kapok and the other defendants filed court documents denying claims in the Amarillo suit.

    In a nationwide alert issued in June, the Treasury Department urged potential investors to avoid some Virgin Islands tax shelters.

    Promoters of the schemes told investors they could establish Virgin Islands residency by spending less than a year in the Virgin Islands and cut their U.S. income tax liability, according to the alert. The alert said taxpayers who knowingly use such shelters could be guilty of evading U.S. tax laws.

    Posted by afinta at 12:08 PM

    November 04, 2004

    More GM Watch

    John Peck is in Louisville:

    New Marriott ahead of schedule
    Hotel may help Louisville as 'convention destination'
    By Sheldon S. Shafer

    With construction several weeks ahead of schedule, the $110million, 617-room Louisville Marriott Downtown is set to open in April.

    Local convention and Marriott officials say the 17-story hotel will bring tens of millions of dollars in new business to the city.

    The project "will help reposition Louisville as a new, emerging convention destination," said Jon Peck, the hotel's general manager.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 10:35 AM

    November 01, 2004

    Where in the world is Jamie Holmes?

    Okay - many of you probably don't even know who Jamie Holmes is. I first met him 3 or 4 years ago at a hotel association meeting. Jamie is the recently departed GM of the Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas. His leaving was abrupt (it happened this summer while I was in NJ) and I don't really know the full story behind it. I do know that he seemed like and asset to the Virgin Islands and was a great guy to work with. Well - looked what turned up today in my email (you'll have to scroll near the end of the article):

    Luxury Western Resort to Open in Montana Wilderness in June
    Monday November 1, 11:37 am ET

    The Resort at Paws Up Is Montana's First Member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World

    GREENOUGH, Mont., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The Resort at Paws Up will bring a new level of five-star service and amenities to Montana when it opens in June 2005, combining luxury with unforgettable adventure on 37,000 acres of untamed western wilderness.

    Paws Up will offer special opening rates starting at $248, available June 5 - Sept. 6, 2005 (regular rates start at $495 for the same time period). Rates include airport transfers and a guided ATV tour.

    The prestigious hotel brand, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, recently named Paws Up as its first member in Montana.

    "The Resort at Paws Up represents the very best offering in its destination. With the property's amenities, size and services available to guests, it was the ideal fit with Small Luxury Hotels," said Ed Donaldson, vice president of marketing, the Americas for Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

    The Resort at Paws Up is situated along seven winding miles of the Blackfoot River, made famous by Robert Redford's coming-of-age classic, A River Runs Through It. More than 100 miles of trails wind through the immense property for horseback riding, ATVs, hiking and mountain biking. Guests will also enjoy some of the country's best fly-fishing, as well as whitewater rafting, lake activities, kayaking, bird and wildlife watching, and sporting clay shooting with 14-time national champion Andy Duffy.

    While the setting may be rugged, Paws Up will offer the kind of amenities and pampering usually reserved for fancy city-slicker hotels. Accommodations for 80 guests range from private, 2,600-square-foot Big Timber Homes to a fully renovated, 100-year-old farmhouse nestled on the bank of Elk Creek, each individually decorated with a rich, yet rustic elegance. After a long day in the saddle, guests can relax among five-star amenities like 300-count linens, heated granite bathroom tiles, private en-suite laundry rooms, flat screen TVs with satellite and DVD players, and DSL connections.

    For the true outdoor enthusiasts, guests can also spend a night along the picturesque Blackfoot River in a unique luxury tent, featuring feather beds, fine linens, artwork and all modern conveniences.

    Paws Up will also offer a full-service spa with unique signature treatments featuring indigenous plants like sage and alfalfa, a fine-dining restaurant, a lively bar and bistro, live entertainment, an outdoor swimming pool featuring large native stone accents, a children's club, meeting facilities and the largest private equestrian center in Montana.

    "With an average of 422 acres and one staff member per guest, Paws Up will be a treasured retreat for those who crave untouched landscapes, a vast blue sky and exciting outdoor adventures, but also want five-star amenities like fine wines and spa treatments," said Jamie Holmes, general manager of Paws Up.

    Paws Up is privately owned by businessman Dave Lipson and his wife Nadine, who live in a circa 1915 farmhouse on the property. Their vision for this unique luxury resort has attracted a highly credentialed management team, including Jamie Holmes, the former GM of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Biras Creek Resort and Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands. The resort has also named Bryan Kindred as assistant general manager, who joined Paws Up from Robert Redford's Sundance Resort in Utah.

    Paws Up is located 35 minutes northeast of Missoula in western Montana. Guests can fly into the Missoula Airport, which can be reached via Delta through Salt Lake City, Northwest Airlines through Minneapolis, United through Denver, and Alaska Air through Seattle.

    For more information on The Resort at Paws Up, please visit http://www.pawsup.com or call 800-473-0601.

    About Small Luxury Hotels of the World

    The Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand is a collection of over 300 independently owned exclusive hotels in more than 50 countries. Carefully selected for their style and sophistication, Small Luxury Hotels feature award-winning properties including spas, country houses, golf resorts, island retreats, city sanctuaries, and game and wilderness lodges. Visit http://www.slh.com for more information.

    Posted by afinta at 08:55 PM

    October 24, 2004

    Bush signs tough new EDC rules into law

    ST. CROIX - As expected, President Bush signed a revised corporate tax law that includes an amendment setting strict new residency and source-of-income rules for the Economic Development Commission program that offers tax breaks to companies in the Virgin Islands.

    The residency and income requirements that opponents fear will cripple the tax incentive program were added in a last-minute amendment to the American Jobs Creation Act in a conference committee earlier this month. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 7, and the U.S. Senate passed it three days later.

    Bush signed the legislation, which includes $136 billion in new tax breaks for U.S. businesses, farmers and other groups, just before hitting the campaign trail Friday afternoon.

    Acting Gov. Vargrave Richards said in a released statement that in anticipation of the president's signing the bill into law, the Turnbull administration commissioned a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers to assess its economic impact on the EDC tax-incentive program.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 06:06 PM

    October 22, 2004

    National Park worth $128M to St. John last year, study finds

    ST. JOHN - The V.I. National Park generated $128 million in sales and 2,500 jobs on St. John last year, according to a recent study that examined the park's regional economic impact.

    The Friends of Virgin Islands National Park made their findings public Thursday at the park's maintenance area in Cruz Bay.

    Friends of the Park is a nonprofit organization and official park partner that raises funds for activities to preserve and protect its natural and cultural resources.

    The study is said to be the most comprehensive conducted to date to track the park's financial influence.

    "Ideas have been thrown about that the park has an economic impact, but no one has tried to quantify it," said Jane Israel, an independent consultant hired by Friends of the Park to conduct the study.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 04:59 PM

    October 16, 2004

    Officials seek ways to soften impact of new EDC rules on V.I.

    Friday, October 15th 2004

    ST. THOMAS - Gov. Charles Turnbull said Thursday that he is working with other government and business officials to soften the blow that legislation the U.S. Congress passed this week will have on the territory's economic development tax-incentive program.

    The new rules strengthening and further defining who qualifies as a "bona fide" resident of the territory and what can be considered as V.I. source income could have a chilling effect on the Economic Development Commission program that offers tax breaks to companies locating in the Virgin Islands.

    Turnbull assured residents that the government is working hard to ease the burden the new law could be to the economy at a press conference Thursday.

    Currently, about 100 businesses are beneficiaries of the EDC program, which brings an estimated $100 million annually to the territory.

    "The bottom line is that this bill will become a law, and it will impact the territory," Turnbull said. "We - the government, the Senate, the Delegate to Congress and the business leaders - are working together to make sure the impact is mitigated to its lowest extent."

    The strict new residency and income requirements that could cripple the EDC tax-incentive program were added in a last-minute amendment to the American Jobs Creation Act in a conference committee early this month. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 7, and the U.S. Senate passed it Monday. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation.

    At this point, the territory can only lobby for the president's understanding and try to ensure that the new federal rules and regulations as they apply to the program are written in a way that is the least harmful to the territory, Turnbull said.

    On Wednesday, Washington, D.C., legal counsel to the territory Peter Heibert and V.I. Republican National Committeeman Holland Redfield II spoke about the issue with Reuben Barales, Bush's assistant for intergovernmental affairs. Two deputy secretaries from the U.S. Interior Department also passed along the territory's concerns to the White House.

    Turnbull said he believes Bush does not want to hurt the V.I. economy and would like to preserve the EDC program. The governor has been invited to travel to Washington and discuss possible solutions with White House officials very soon, he said.

    Because the language affecting the EDC program was introduced less than two weeks ago, Turnbull said, the potential damage has not been assessed. Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is analyzing the socioeconomic impact of the changes on the territory's economy.

    Turnbull said preliminary results of that assessment should be available in two weeks, with a final report expected at the end of the year. Turnbull and Office of Fiscal and Economic Recovery Director Nathan Simmonds would not estimate the economic impact on Thursday.

    Revenues expected from the EDC program constitute "a substantial portion" of the budgetary projections used to put together the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, Turnbull said. The V.I. Senate passed a $607 million budget on Oct. 4.

    Turnbull said that the budget proposals have not made it to Government House for his signature but that the changes in the law will affect the fiscal year's revenue. Turnbull plans to meet with senators early next week.

    Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Frank Schulterbrandt said that though the program's future is uncertain, no companies have withdrawn. Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards said he has received some inquiries and met with some EDC beneficiaries but knows of none who have decided to take their business elsewhere.

    Schulterbrandt said Wednesday that the changes' impact will vary depending on the beneficiaries.

    "Their CPAs and tax attorneys first have to assess the situation and find out what the impact to the individual company would be," Schulterbrandt said Wednesday. "Over time, they will see if they can fit in the program with the new changes in the law."

    Richards' office will post updates on the EDC program online at http://www.revitalizestcroix.com.

    The new proposal makes two major changes - one in residency requirements and one in income eligible for tax breaks. According to the bill, EDC beneficiaries must live in the territory for six months out of the year starting in 2005. Current law requires EDC company owners to live in the territory but has no set amount of time they need to be here.

    Only income made in the territory would be eligible for tax breaks, according to the new proposal. Money that an EDC company makes on the U.S. mainland could not be counted as earnings made in the territory.

    Recent developments have come after months of negotiating between the territory and the federal government to find ways to curb abuses of the program while preserving the territory's efforts to improve its economy.

    Accusations of abuse in the program prompted investigations into at least two EDC beneficiaries.

    Posted by afinta at 12:49 PM

    October 14, 2004

    U.S. Virgin Islands Balks at Tax Changes

    From the AP:


    Investors and government officials criticized a U.S. congressional bill that drastically reformed a corporate tax break program in the U.S. Virgin Islands, warning it could derail the territory's 2005 budget.

    The bill, which the U.S. Congress passed Monday, imposed stricter rules for corporations receiving tax breaks under the 17-year-old Economic Development Commission program.

    The program has lured more than 100 companies to the U.S. Caribbean territory, employing thousands of residents and contributing up to 25 percent of government revenue through spending and taxes, officials have said.

    Critics warned the new rules could chase away businesses expected to contribute more than US$115 million in taxes next year - about 19 percent of the US$605 million 2005 budget.

    Gov. Charles Turnbull warned the new regulations could "have serious financial consequences for the territory."

    He said government officials hoped to meet with officials from the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to discuss how the bill will be implemented, vowing to "use all our resources and leave no stone unturned in our efforts to protect this important and essential program."

    Officials based the 2005 budget on an estimated 30 percent increase in government revenue. But the new rules could lead to a drop in revenue if businesses pull out of the territory, said U.S. Virgin Islands Senator Shawn-Michael Malone.

    "I don't want to scare people, but I want people to see the potential loss," Malone said.

    Under the new rules, businesses must conduct all their transactions inside the U.S. Virgin Islands to be eligible for the tax breaks. Before, some businesses with transactions outside the territory qualified.

    The new regulations also require a company's primary assets to be located in the territory. Business owners also must reside in the U.S. Virgin Islands for at least 182 days a year.

    The Economic Development Commission program came under criticism earlier this year after a man was convicted for falsely claiming he lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands to get tax breaks.

    "This is a terrible blow to our economy. There's no question there will be serious fallout in the program," said Rick Moman, chairman of Corporate Services Group, LLP, which has real estate and financial consulting firms in the U.S. Virgin Islands and has benefited from the program since 1996.

    Moman said he was still studying the new regulations to determine how they would affect his business.

    Other companies that benefit from the tax breaks include hotels, museums, rum distilleries and construction material manufacturers.

    Posted by afinta at 12:11 PM

    More quotes from the auto dealer

    Here is another story about Jamie Auffenberg -

    Auto dealer says tax break was proper


    BELLEVILLE - A controversial tax shelter program based in the U.S. Virgin Islands enabled car dealer Jamie Auffenberg to save $1.4 million on his federal income tax bill four years ago.

    However, Auffenberg disputed recent media reports that he only paid $97,000 in taxes in 2000 on income of $6.4 million -- instead of the $2.3 million tax bill he would have faced if he had claimed Illinois as his legal residence.

    To bolster his case, Auffenberg showed a Belleville News-Democrat reporter copies of his personal tax returns for 2000 showing he paid $458,418 in income taxes that year.

    Auffenberg, 53, acknowledged that he has benefited from taking part in the tax incentive program. But he said stories in the New York Times and St. Louis Post-Dispatch understated the level of commitment he has had to make to the Virgin Islands' economy to receive the tax benefit.

    Click here to read the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 12:06 PM | Comments (2)

    October 13, 2004

    Car dealer gets break living abroad

    Well, the news is coming from all over the place. Here is an article from a St. Louis, MO newspaper site about an auto dealer there who is in the EDC program and managed to pay only 100k in taxes on 2.4 million of income. I don't have a lot of sympathy for a guy like this - this isn't what the program was set up for, and fools like this (I can't believe the guy actually gave the reporter quotes - just shut up and call your lawyer) who have abused this system are the reason the rules are going to become much tougher, and probably drive legitimate businesses from the Territorty.

    By William Lamb
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Jamie Auffenberg, who operates 12 Metro East car dealerships, was able to save nearly $2.1 million in federal income taxes four years ago by claiming St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands, as his primary residence, court documents show.

    Auffenberg acknowledged in a telephone interview last week that he participates in a tax-incentive program that Congress created in 1960 to promote economic activity in the Virgin Islands. Federal authorities say that the program, which taxes certain qualified residents at an annual rate of just 3.5 percent, has become a target for abuse by wealthy Americans.

    Auffenberg is president of the St. Clair Auto Mall in O'Fallon, Ill. His wife, Margaret, has a house in Swansea that is listed in her name. Jamie Auffenberg said he had established legal residency in St. Croix in 2000 and insisted that the arrangement is legal and proper.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 02:36 PM

    October 12, 2004

    U.S. Senate expected to pass bill today that could cripple EDC program

    This is pretty big news around here. The EDC program has brought a lot of investment, jobs, and income to the territory. I don't want to over state the possible negative effects about the whole thing but in the short term it could make the local economy, especially the part that doesn't count on tourism so much, a lot tougher. It may also halt the rising prices of real estate.

    Monday, October 11th 2004

    The U.S. Senate is expected to approve today legislation that could severely curtail the territory's Economic Development Commission tax-incentive program.

    The territory discovered last week that language in an amendment to the federal Jumpstart Our Business Strength bill coming out of the Congressional conference committee. The new version of the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. The U.S. Senate has debated through the weekend and at 1:40 p.m. Sunday, senators approved a motion for cloture, which limits further debate to 30 hours. After 30 hours have passed, a vote on the measure must be taken.

    If the bill becomes law, money that EDC beneficiaries make on the mainland will not be eligible for tax breaks. Those tax breaks - as much as 100 percent of personal income in some cases - form the backbone of the EDC program.

    Click here for the rest of the article

    Posted by afinta at 10:59 AM

    October 10, 2004

    Proposed EDC changes create air of uncertainty

    More news about the new changes to the EDC program -

    Saturday, October 9th 2004

    ST. CROIX - Government officials and attorneys representing V.I. Economic Development Commission tax-break beneficiaries said Friday that the effects of federal tax law changes, which the U.S. Senate is expected to approve today, could be hit-or-miss for the approximately 100 companies in the program.

    What is certain is that under those changes, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service will deliver a hard hit to a program that has brought more than $100 million into the territory.

    The new rules are attached in an amendment to the American Jobs Creation Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed late Thursday night. The U.S. Senate did not get to it Friday, but the Senate Press Office said it was on the Senate agenda for this weekend.

    Click here to read the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 11:47 AM

    October 08, 2004

    Feds poised to clamp down on EDC without delay

    Tax breaks for money earned on U.S. mainland would cease this year, rather than next, if bill becomes law
    Friday, October 8th 2004

    ST. CROIX - The federal government moved forward Thursday with drastic measures to close loopholes in the territory's Economic Development Commission's tax-incentive program - just hours after Acting Gov. Vargrave Richards incorrectly announced that the territory had won a one-year reprieve from the crackdown.

    While the territory did manage to temporarily dodge enforcement of the strict new residency rules, it did not succeed in postponing the second, and equally important, prong of the federal government's attack on the EDC program.

    That attack - aimed at removing tax breaks for income that Virgin Islands companies earn on the U.S. mainland - could hit this year if Congress passes, and President Bush signs, the American Jobs Creation Act, to which the EDC reform measure is attached in amendment form.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 05:32 PM

    October 06, 2004

    Feds poised to crack down on EDC companies

    Changes to JOBS bill would set strict residency guidelines for tax-break beneficiaries
    Wednesday, October 6th 2004

    ST. CROIX - Three months after it fired the first warning shot over the bow of the territory's Economic Development Commission tax-incentive program, the federal government took direct aim this week at residency loopholes it says have led to abuse and fraud within the program.

    New language inserted Monday into an amendment to the federal Jumpstart Our Business Strength bill would set strict definitions for tax residency in U.S. territories and remove tax breaks from money made on the U.S. mainland.

    Government officials and EDC representatives said the changes - added in conference committee - came as a shock and could cripple the tax-incentive program that officials estimate bring approximately $100 million into the territory annually.

    Companies operating here could leave, taking their jobs and island investments with them, they said, and companies considering a move to the territory may reconsider if the new rules are in place.

    "This could have a major impact on our watch factories and EDC companies," said Acting Gov. Vargrave Richards. "This could have a numbing, devastating and debilitating effect."

    Gov. Charles Turnbull was out of the territory Tuesday.

    Territory officials said they thought they had negotiated a compromise on the issue, with language in the U.S. Senate version of the bill tightening residency standards but allowing for several options to establish residency. They said the single-option language that appeared Monday came as a surprise.

    V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen said the changes were made by committee Chairman Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., but originated in the Treasury Department.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 06:47 PM

    August 11, 2004

    Vegas developer fails to address Virgin Islands casino concerns

    Mat Probasco
    8/4/2004 11:03 pm 

    CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands - A Las Vegas-based developer failed to address environmental concerns in its application to build a casino-resort near sensitive wetlands, a government regulatory agency has decided.

    Golden Resorts did not provide plans for wildlife protection, trash removal, and sewage and drainage controls, according to the Coastal Zone Management Committee's 12-page ruling released late Tuesday.

    The committee said it would officially inform the company of its decision this week, giving it 10 days to address the concerns.

    Golden Resorts wants to build the $150 million resort about 50 feet from the mangrove-fringed Great Pond on the island of St. Croix.

    The pond is home to many rare birds, including herons egrets and the white crown pigeons. The federally protected green and hawksbill sea turtles nest on the nearby beaches.

    Environmentalists argue the resort would attract crowds to the normally deserted beaches, potentially destroying turtle nesting grounds and scaring off birds. They also say soil runoff from construction could cause other harm.

    Golden Resorts attorney Kevin Rames countered the 290-acre resort would employ 1,200 people, 80 percent of whom would be from St. Croix, the largest and poorest island in the U.S. Caribbean territory. The 434-room resort would include a casino and golf course.

    Rames insisted the resort wouldn't be any more environmentally damaging than the stray dogs, motorcycle riders and fishermen's shacks already around the area.

    "The same interest groups who have concern about development don't seem to care about the fishing shacks and feral dogs there," Rames said. "But when you try to put something on the ground to employ people the objections flow fast and they flow heavy."

    Golden Resorts has an appeal pending with the Board of Land Use Appeals, arguing it should have been granted the permit by default because the zone management committee failed to rule on its application within 30 days. That deadline passed in February.

    The appeals board has agreed to hear the case in September, said Michael Law, the board's legal counselor.

    Copyright © 2004 The Reno Gazette-Journal

    Posted by afinta at 12:04 AM

    Virgin Islander detained in "mistaken identity" case

    By Beth P. Krane
    Staff Writer

    August 7, 2004

    An Arab-American man at the center of last week's Port of Palm Beach terrorist scare said Friday that he thinks law enforcement officials overreacted because of his first name.

    Riviera Beach police and federal law enforcement officials detained Mohammad Suid, 30, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, for hours and shut down the port and surrounding communities after stopping the businessman for speeding and finding his name on a national watch list. Officials later said it was a case of mistaken identity.

    "I'm an ordinary, regular guy. I've never had anything like this happen," said Suid, who was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "I definitely felt like it was racial profiling. ... I understand they were trying to do their jobs, but I think they could have handled it a lot better."

    Suid, who runs a chain of department stores in the Virgin Islands with his father, said he was speeding in a U-Haul at the port when police stopped him. He had come from Orlando, where he purchased a cargo truck and furniture for his stores, with his cousin and had just dropped off the truck and other items to be shipped to the Virgin Islands. Suid said he was speeding because he was in a hurry to catch a flight from Miami back home.

    "An officer asked me for my license, saw my name and asked me to step out of the truck," he said. "Then they started searching the truck."

    Officers seemed uneasy when they found a license plate Suid had used to drive the new cargo truck from Orlando to the port, he said. They kept Suid, his cousin and a third man, who had driven the truck from Orlando, on the ground near the trucks for more than two hours before Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Border Patrol agents began swarming the area, he said.

    "I'm asking them the whole time, `What's the problem? What's the problem?' but they wouldn't answer me," said Suid, who noticed the officers evacuating the port and surrounding communities. "I was like, `Man, what's going on? All of this because of me?'"

    Suid said the chaos was upsetting to his autistic cousin, Khalid Suid, 19, who lives with him. Khalid still has trouble sleeping at night because of the incident, Mohammad Suid said.

    The three men were fingerprinted twice -- once at the scene and again at the U.S. Border Patrol office -- and had their pictures taken, even though no charges were filed, Suid said. He was given a traffic citation for driving 51 mph in a 35 mph zone, Riviera Beach Police records show.

    The trio was released more than four hours after the 2:30 p.m. July 28 traffic stop, but the men were given little explanation as to why they had been detained, Suid said.

    "They told me it was a case of mistaken identity with Mohammad, but how many Mohammads are there in the whole world?"

    Suid said U.S. Border Patrol agents made that comment to him, but Richard Montemayor, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman, said that was not the case. The Border Patrol provided the space but did not take an active role in the interrogation, he said.

    Riviera Beach officials defended the city's reaction again Friday.

    "We made a routine traffic stop, that's what we did," spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown said. Officers detained the men and alerted federal officials because Suid's name appeared in a national criminal database with an alert saying he was "a person of interest," she said.

    "Unfortunately, these men were detained for a few hours," Brown said. "Fortunately, for them and for us, the proper protocol was followed."

    Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown said racial profiling was not at play: "There were a series of things that happened that caused our officers to believe that this was a suspicious individual."

    The U-Haul truck was speeding at the port, which is an area of heightened security.

    Officers reported the men gave conflicting information and were not cooperative. Then, the driver's name appeared on a national watch list, he said.

    The traffic ticket lists Suid's address as the Florida Air Academy in Melbourne. Suid said he attended the school in 1989 and 1993, but that he presented his current U.S. Virgin Islands driver's license to the officers.

    Mayor Brown said the flight school connection may have raised a red flag.

    "A flight school would have raised all kinds of interesting issues for me," Brown said. "You're looking at the last community that would profile anyone, but 9-11 brought this on and we're just trying to deal with it and keep our residents safe."

    Suid said he plans to pay his $180.50 speeding ticket and is consulting with a lawyer.

    "My immediate concern is about the fingerprints and photos," he said Friday. "I want to make sure my name is cleared."

    The 223-acre port is near a power plant and across the Intracoastal Waterway from the northern tip of the island of Palm Beach.

    Staff Writer Patty Pensa contributed to this report.

    Beth P. Krane can be reached at bpkrane@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6631.

    Posted by afinta at 12:03 AM

    June 18, 2004

    Historian, Politician Michael Paiewonsky Is Dead at 64

          June 17, 2004 - Many in the V.I. community were shocked and saddened to learn Thursday afternoon of the death of Michael Albert Paiewonsky – publisher, historian, art patron, politician, author and native son.
          Paiewonsky, 64, was found stricken Wednesday evening in his San Juan home, according to friends, and died while being taken by ambulance to a hospital. A medical examiner said on Thursday that an autopsy would be performed on Friday to determine the cause of death.

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 04:16 AM | Comments (2)

    April 02, 2004

    Cost-U-Less reports sales jump

    Same-store first quarter sales jumped 15.3 percent from year-before at Cost-U-Less Inc., the Pacific island discount retailer.

    Cost-U-Less operates Costco-like stores in island markets. It has two stores in Hawaii, two on Guam, one in American Samoa and one in Fiji. It also has a store in California, two in the U.S. Virgin Islands and two in the Netherlands Antilles.

    First quarter sales were $50.1 million compared to just $42.3 million a year before, an increase of 18.3 percent. The same-store comparison produces a smaller number by excluding the Dededo, Guam, store, closed a year ago due to damage from Supertyphoon Pongsona.

    "In some markets," CEO Jeff Meder said, "improved economies from more tourism have driven higher sales, while in other markets, better execution has led to increases."

    Posted by afinta at 06:35 PM

    March 31, 2004

    Travel magazine's survey rates V.I. tops in 8 categories

    The U.S. Virgin Islands was No. 1 in eight "Best of the Caribbean" categories in a survey issued to readers of Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine.

    "We are very pleased by the performances of our properties," said Beverly Nicholson, president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association. "Taking eight categories speaks to the fact that, overall, our destination is superb and we have a lot to offer."

    Click here for the whole article

    Posted by afinta at 08:34 AM

    March 10, 2004

    The Return of Gordon Ackley

    Gordon Ackley is selling high speed wireless and modem Internet access in the USVI. He is currently offering a dial up service called surfVI - you can check it out here. It is guerilla style modem access - no tech support but low prices and a full featured account for those that know how to use it. He also is offering a high speed wireless solution called BIGsurf.

    Ackley sold VIAccess to Atlantic Tele-Networks (Choice Communitcations) in 1999. Now that the non-compete terms of that deal have expired he is excited to get back into the business of providing Internet access in the US Virgin Islands.

    Posted by afinta at 01:27 PM

    December 09, 2003

    Only Here

    Caribbean Sun had been a pet project of the tourism department here - how this debacle occurred is beyond me:

    Airline cancels flights from P.R. after V.I. refuses registration
    Tuesday, December 9th 2003

    Just days before Caribbean Sun Airlines was to launch new flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix from Puerto Rico, the company canceled its plans after the Lt. Governor's Office refused to register the company because its name is too similar to existing companies in the territory.

    Read the whole article here

    Posted by afinta at 07:51 PM | Comments (1)

    December 03, 2003

    U.S. Virgin Islands On NBC Jumbotron in New York's Times Square

    UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, December 3, 2003 - Commissioner of Tourism Pamela C. Richards is pleased to announce that the United States Virgin Islands once again is projecting images of our tropical paradise above New York's Times Square and in hundreds of subway cars throughout New York City this winter.

    The Department of Tourism has been advertising on the NBC Jumbotron screen since November 17, 2003, and will continue to run the ads until January 4, 2004. The new ads recommend that hurried New Yorkers and New York City tourists enjoy a "Red, White and Blue" Christmas, by featuring the white sands, blue waters and red boats and sails of the USVI. In addition, through images of green fields, children playing on the beach and scuba divers, onlookers are encouraged to make a few New Year's resolutions to relax, laugh and exercise more. The beautiful warm images of America's Caribbean will be seen during the busiest shopping and sightseeing days in New York City, as well as during the famous Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, which welcomes millions of revelers each year. The screen stretches to 30 by 40 feet in size, making it the world's largest television, viewed by more than 1.5 million individuals on any given day.

    "We ran a similar campaign during the 2001-2002 holiday season, which proved incredibly successful during a difficult time for the tourism industry," Commissioner Richards stated. "I have no doubt that this year's efforts also will result in increased bookings to the Territory as well as an increase in overall branding awareness of our unique U.S. destination."

    The Jumbotron screen ads are just one component of the Department of Tourism's new winter marketing campaign. In addition to the video blitz, passengers aboard subways throughout New York City are once again enjoying a variety of scenic banner ads that adorn more than 570 of the city's trains. Images of beaches, breathtaking vistas and sunny skies leave commuters daydreaming of a warm tropical vacation during New York's cold winter days. This year's subway campaign debuted on November 3, 2003, and will continue until December 28, 2003.

    The simultaneous "USVI Ice Breaker" promotion provides visitors an array of value-added incentives, making following the lure of the ads and booking a vacation to St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas during the holidays even more attractive. The wintertime promotion includes the seventh night accommodations free, $50 in sightseeing and shopping money upon arrival and a host of other savings opportunities.

    Posted by afinta at 05:49 PM | Comments (1)

    November 14, 2003

    Thousands evacuated in flooding

    By Ricardo Zuniga in San Juan, Puerto Rico
    November 14, 2003

    THOUSANDS of Puerto Ricans were ordered from their homes as relentless rains unleashed floods across the Caribbean island, sending rivers surging over their banks and setting off landslides. Click here for the full story

    Posted by afinta at 02:49 AM

    November 08, 2003


    USVI Department of Tourism's Italy Office Has Moved

    The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism's regional office in Italy has moved. The new address is: Via Carlo Pisacane, 26; 20129 Milano, Italy. The telephone and fax numbers have not changed. The telephone number is 39 02 33 10 58 41, and the fax number is 39 02 33 10 58 27.

    Cape Air and Continental Airlines Expand Flight Schedule

    Cape Air recently announced that it is expanding its flight schedule between San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas and St. Croix, to offer travelers more than 50 daily round trip flights. In addition, the airline has a new program with Continental Airlines, its codeshare partner in the Caribbean, to offer passengers on Continental codeshare flights operated by Cape Air, double OnePass miles. The double miles program is available from now until December 20, 2003. With the expanded schedule, Continental passengers have greater connection opportunities between San Juan and the Territory. For additional information, visit www.flycapeair.com.

    Carambola Beach Resort Names New General Manager

    Carambola Beach Resort, on St. Croix, recently announced that Derek Newton is the property's new general manager. Derek brings more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry to the resort. For more information, call (340) 778-3800, or visit www.carambolabeachresort.com.

    Coral World Changes Name

    The largest aquarium and hands-on marine activity center on St. Thomas recently changed its name. Now known as Coral World Ocean Park, formerly known as Coral World Marine Park and Underwater Observatory, the aqua attraction continues to provide visitors with an array of underwater educational experiences including shark feedings and sea trekking. Call (888) 695-2073, or visit www.coralworldvi.com.

    St. Thomas Adds the Screamin' Eagle Jet Boat to its Array of Watersport Activities

    The Screamin' Eagle Jet Boat is the latest addition to the adventure activity line-up on St. Thomas. Brought to adventurous travelers by Atlantis Adventures, the new thrill-seeking 700 horsepower, turbo-charged jet boat zips through the water at speeds of up to 40 knots. Considered a roller coaster on water, the new highly maneuverable boat can carry up to 23 passengers and has the ability to make power stops and 180-degree turns. For additional information or to book a trip on the new ride, call (340) 776-5650, or visit www.atantisadventures.com.

    Sugar Beach Condo Resort Now Has On-site Wedding Coordinator

    Sugar Beach Condo Resort on St. Croix recently announced that Cindee Sheridan is the resort's new on-site wedding consultant. The property boasts numerous romantic locations, including a 250 year-old sugar mill and a 500-foot beach. >From now until November 30, the wedding consultation fees will be offered to guests of the resort free of charge. Call (800) 524-2049 or (340) 773-5345, or visit www.sugarbeachstcroix.com.

    WICO Dock Can Accommodate Three of the Largest Cruise Ships in the Industry

    St. Thomas' West Indian Company cruise ship dock now can accommodate three of the largest cruise ships in the industry at the same time. Frequently called the Havensight dock, the newly renovated cruise ship haven also boasts a new generator capable of powering the entire Havensight shopping area.

    Posted by afinta at 02:34 AM

    St. Thomas To Host 29th Annual Fall Charteryacht Show

    UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, November 3, 2003 - Commissioner of Tourism Pamela C. Richards is pleased to announce that the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League will host the 29th Annual Fall Charteryacht Show, November 10-12, at the Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas. Participating charter vacation brokers and travel agents will be able to view yachts based in the United States Virgin Islands and talk with their crews.

    "The charter yacht industry is an integral part of our tourism product," Commissioner of Tourism Pamela C. Richards said. "I encourage current brokers and travel agents interested in becoming certified brokers to attend our semi-annual shows to familiarize themselves with this luxurious, upscale vacation option in the U.S. Virgin Islands."

    All recognized brokers are invited to attend the show free of charge. The "New Broker Seminar," scheduled for November 9 and 12, is mandatory for all brokers who have not attended a previous St. Thomas show. Upon completion of the program and attendance at the show, participants are recognized as brokers and are eligible to book charters. The cost of the two-part seminar is $250. Discounts are available to new brokerages with more than one broker attending the seminar. The fee for each additional broker is reduced to $175. New brokers affiliated with a recognized brokerage may attend for $100. There are no additional costs for attending the show, but registration is required.

    The Virgin Islands Charteryacht League's semi-annual charteryacht shows are the oldest in the Caribbean. This year's Fall Charteryacht Show is expected to draw more than 40 charter yachts and 100 charter vacation brokers from the U.S. mainland and around the world. Following the show, several yachts will offer three-night familiarization trips between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. The cost for brokers is $50 per night/per broker and $75 per night for companions sharing the broker's cabin, plus customs and immigration fees.

    For more information about the upcoming Fall Charteryacht Show, call (340) 774-3944, or (800) 524-2061, or visit the V.I. Charteryacht League's Web site at www.vicl.org. For further details about Crown Bay Marina, visit the Web site at www.crownbay.com. For additional information about the United States Virgin Islands, call 800-372-USVI (8784), visit www.usvitourism.vi or contact the nearest USVI Department of Tourism regional office in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington, D.C. or Toronto.

    Posted by afinta at 02:33 AM

    October 28, 2003

    What is a Cat Cracker?

    I didn't know - but then I saw this headline "St. Croix cat cracker cut to 100,000 bpd on glitch-Hess" and had to read the story.

    Posted by afinta at 02:04 PM | Comments (7)

    October 27, 2003

    St. Croix Not Only Distinguished Beaches, Also Distinguished Gentleman

    Crucian Bestowed Knighthood by Queen of Denmark

    UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, October 27, 2003 - Commissioner of Tourism Pamela C. Richards is pleased to announce that Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has bestowed the honor of knighthood upon Leif Clemens Pedersen under the provisions of the Order of Dannebrog. Once an order designated only to high dignitaries and those of nobility, knighthood now is granted to anyone the King or Queen of Denmark decides has truly displayed civil and military merit.

    While living on St. Croix, Pedersen has served as the president for St. Croix Friends of Denmark, promoting the island internationally to Danish tourists, journalists and Danish government officials. Even with his busy schedule, he still finds time to referee soccer for the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) on Saturdays.

    When off island, Leif Clemens Pedersen also is a Danish-American facilitator for Danish contacts and promotions in the United States. He started the Scandinavian Soccer Sports Club, "The Vikings," in Brooklyn, New York. For several years he was chairman of the Danish American Coordinating Council in Greater New York, board member of the Danish Home for the Aged and co-founder of DANCE, a cultural exchange program for the performing arts.
    Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1938, Pedersen moved to New York to assist the president of a major Danish civil engineering and construction company. This opportunity led him to a 20-year tenure with an Argentine-Italian conglomeration of companies. He assisted in the pipeline, refinery and steel mill constructions in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. After his early retirement in 1993, he and his wife, Elisabeth, moved to St. Croix to their current home, which they have owned since 1980.

    On October 18, 2003, Pedersen and his wife of 41 years, Elisabeth, were featured in a three-hour prime time television program shown on Danish national television. The program highlighted Danes thriving with the local people of beautiful St. Croix. On November 21, 2003, Danish radio will feature a program entitled "Red Grout and Blood Lines." During this program, Mr. Pedersen will advocate for reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans during Danish rule of St. Croix. Pedersen strongly believes that the Danes should build industries on the island to create jobs while boosting the economy of the island.

    "Mr. Pedersen's continuous efforts to maintain relationships with Denmark, St. Croix and the Unites States have made Crucians proud, both at home and abroad," Commissioner of Tourism Pamela C. Richards said. "The United States Virgin Islands is proud of his dedicated service and many accomplishments for his unrelenting love, service and activism for St. Croix."

    Posted by Anthony at 12:31 PM