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."