eTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people).
We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."
eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion.
But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.
Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to crime." It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.
Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.
There’s no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It’s dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.
It’s disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
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Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom – Virgin Islands Daily News