USVI getting there, day by day

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Carnival Cruise Line returned to St. Thomas in January with a call from the Glory.
Carnival Cruise Line returned to St. Thomas in January with a call from the Glory.

SAN JUAN -- The U.S. Virgin Islands is close to having full power on all three islands, following the hurricanes last September, according to Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism.

"St. Croix's power grid is completely back, and we're close on St. Thomas and St. John. Each day brings more hookups," she said.

In a briefing to media at the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association's Marketplace in San Juan, the commissioner ticked off additional recovery progress:

• Most of the beaches on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas have been cleaned up, are accessible to visitors and are wider than before due to sand surge.

• Current room inventory in St. Thomas and St. John stands at 9,000, primarily in villas, apartments, small inns, shared economy accommodations and charter yachts. Large resorts such as the Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Sugar Bay on St. Thomas and the Westin on St. John are rebuilding.

• Airlift has increased from 5,000 seats per week after the storm to 13,000 seats currently.

• All major cruise lines have returned to St. Thomas.

Tourism accounts for 30% of the GDP and 8,000 jobs in the USVI.

"Our short-term goal is to rebuild the economy. We will be rolling out more training programs in the hospitality sector as the larger properties come back online, more jobs are added and more visitors arrive. We need to offer a hospitality product that is consistent in its welcome, from taxi drivers and wait staff to airport workers and attraction operators," Nicholson-Doty said.

In line with that objective is the #USVIstillnice hashtag "to remind consumers and the trade that the USVI is rebounding, recovering and welcoming."

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