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Desperate Tourism Officials Worried About Zika and More Hit The Panic Button, Opt To Pay People To Come To The Territory

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UNDER FIRE FOR UNDER PERFORMANCE: Beverly Nicholson-Doty is in the hot seat this high season as thousands of Zika virus cases in Puerto Rico fail to stop tourists from going there; while territorial tourism numbers are down overall since the advent of the mosquito-borne disease here.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — You wouldn’t expect that the territory would to have to pay people as an inducement to come here at the height of the tourist season.

Northern North Dakota, maybe. Snowy Saskatchewan, sure.

But Sunny St. Croix?

Tourism officials continue to hammer home that St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix are exotic tropical islands in an American paradise with no real language barriers — where you don’t even need a passport.

But people should be banging on the doors to get in — not the other way around.

That’s not the way the great minds at V.I. Tourism, think, though.

Officially Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty — a rare carry over from the Gov. John P. de Jongh administration, says that the $300 cash back plan is a way to honor the 100th anniversary of the United States taking control of the Virgin Islands from Denmark.

Nicholson-Doty says that pay off is for visitors “to spend exploring the place.”

That’s right: three bills to dole out hiking, kayaking, touring, swimming, and eating your way through the territory.

Can I spend that money any place?

Not exactly. They’re not handing you 300 bones to blow on overpriced rum runners. The idea is to get you to explore and learn about the United States’ chunk of the West Indies, so the credits are good for things like eco-tours, museums, food tours, and kayaking adventures.

But unlike those Valpaks you used to get in the mail that said “$400 in savings inside!”, this arrangement isn’t a fancy way of saying “coupon book.” The credits will be good on anything you buy from these designated sites and activities, up to and including the full retail prices. Gratuity, of course, not included.

So how do I get these “credits”?

Simple. You book a trip to the Virgin Islands for at least three nights through USVI.com and the department of tourism will send you $300 in credits.

This is actual paper money that you can use just like cash at any of the participating locations.

And if you happen to travel in March (aka the month of the actual centennial) the DOT will throw in a commemorative souvenir into the bargain.

All sorts of events are going on in the territory to commemorate the centennial, which you can peep right here.

But even if you’re not into any of it, going on a vacation where $300 worth of your trip is covered is never a bad idea. Or, at least, never an expensive one.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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