The airlines' commission cuts drew lots of comments at the Caribbean Tourism Conference on Aruba. One speech that stood out was that of Wylie Whisonant, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Whisonant addressed a roomful of agents who had just sat through a long morning session on how to improve leisure bookings. The agents were restless, hungry and thirsty. Whisonant quickly sized up his audience and their mood. "It's lunchtime. You've earned a good meal," he said. "Always remember that your customers cannot talk to the Internet. They can talk to you. "We in the U.S. Virgin Islands will succeed by working with people like you. We can't raise your commissions, but," he bellowed, "come on down and stay with us. "We'll stroke the hell out of you while you're in our islands." Whistles, applause, foot stomping followed. This is the kind of talk agents understand. After all, this was the same Whisonant who earlier had compared the people of the post-hurricane U.S.V.I. to bread dough. "We have risen and we continue to rise. Agents are our yeast."

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