BASSETERRE, St. Kitts: United States Virgin Islands Lt. Governor, Gregory R. Francis, recently conducted an in-depth tour of St. Kitts’ historical and eco-sensitive attractions to gather insights in anticipation of developing his country’s “Bethlehem Project” and other low-impact, soft attractions on St. Croix.
With Francis were Director of Budget and Financial Affairs, Ira Mills (Office of the Lieutenant Governor), Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty and President of St. Croix Farmers in Action – the organization spearheading the Bethlehem project -Percival Edwards.
The USVI Team met with the General Manager of the Urban Development Corporation (the organization responsible for the development of Port Zante), Keith Phillip; St. Kitts & Nevis Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Sen. Richard Skerritt and General Manager of the Scenic Railway, Thomas Williams to discuss key tourism ideas that could be applied to plans to expand St. Croix’s excursion offerings for residents, cruise passengers and overnight visitors.
The team of visiting officials also met with Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas and the Premier of Nevis, Joseph Parry.
Meetings with key management officials from St. Kitts’ Scenic Railway – an informative, 3-hour railroad tour that loops around the island – served as a primary opportunity to discuss the potential development of a historical site in Estate Bethlehem, St. Croix that would highlight the history of sugarcane on the island.
The attraction would seek to underscore the interconnected past of key Caribbean islands including St. Croix, St. Kitts, the Dominican Republic and Vieques, Puerto Rico.
“St. Croix’s role in the sugar industry intertwines with the history of several islands in the region and contributed to the migration of people from St. Kitts, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other nearby islands to St. Croix,” said Francis.
“We have an opportunity to develop a site on St. Croix that brings this shared history to life, honouring the influence these immigrants had on our culture, while fostering enlightenment and education for our residents and visitors alike.”
The team also met with members of the zipline tour company, Sky Safari St. Kitts, to observe the operation and gain insight on the popularity of this soft adventure attraction.
Visits to other important sites like Port Zante and Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site) showcased how investments in tourism-enhancement projects over the past few years have increased the island’s profile internationally, allowing it to serve as a case study for neighbouring destinations.
“We can significantly enhance tourism in St. Croix by applying the best practices of neighbouring islands like St. Kitts as we move forward with our own development plans,” said Nicholson-Doty.
“We face similar challenges and should never become insular in our approach to enhancing our individual tourism offerings. Each island can solve its difficulties while simultaneously building a stronger regional tourism product.”