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GITTENS: Mobile Devices Must Be Incorporated Into The Visitor Experience Here

MIAMI — Visitors are increasingly seeking interactive travel experiences that allow them to make human connections, as well as use their mobile devices to explore new destinations.

This was just one of the many takeaways from the 2019 Seatrade Cruise Global Conference, Senate President Kenneth Gittens said Thursday.

He said the Virgin Islands government must do more to support the development of phone apps and engaging activities geared toward visitors and that the territory needs to move toward breaking traditional and technological barriers.

“We cannot continue to do outdated things and expect new and prosperous results,” Gittens said. “The experience for most of our visitors is transitioning to depend greatly on how much they can interact and explore through their smart phones and other mobile devices. With our millennial generation on the rise, we need to get on board with how we can attract and engage our visitors through electronic media.”

Members of the delegation from the 33rd Legislature largely agreed that they are encouraged by the direction the cruise industry is moving in, but that the Virgin Islands needs to continue to adapt to the changing business climate and the evolving demands of travelers.

One example of this changing business climate is what industry leaders call the “Onboard Retail Revolution”, where passengers are strongly encouraged to make all their purchases onboard the ship rather than spending money in the ports of call.

Senator Athneil “Bobby” Thomas said these discussions further emphasized the need for the Virgin Islands to improve the visitor experience.

“We must enhance and diversify the attractions we offer,” Senator Thomas said. “We need to work on developing that special niche product that can lure visitors to the Territory for that ‘to-die-for’ item that’s not available on every ship. We have unique experiences and products to offer if we market correctly.”

Senator Oakland Benta, a first-time attendee, said he sees tremendous value in the Virgin Islands’ participation in Seatrade.

“It’s been predicted that 30 million people will take a cruise this year,” Senator Benta said. “Every year, there are new travelers and the Virgin Islands must continuously be reintroduced to the rest of the world. The United States Virgin Islands is open for business and Seatrade allows us to shine a powerful spotlight on our destination. There’s opportunity to find new ways to make our tourism product more sustainable and attractive, meet with industry leaders and establish lasting and meaningful relationships.”

Senate President Gittens said he was pleased with the level of information that was provided and the new partnerships formed to better develop the industry.

“We need to learn our guests so that we can continue to create great experiences and improve our tourism product,” Gittens said. “One of our most meaningful meetings was with executives of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, discussing expanding and promoting the St. Croix brand to align with our St. Thomas brand. We determined that one of the first steps must be to shift to a more definitive leadership role for our private sector partners and I look forward to further discussion on my return to St. Croix.”

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