A proposal from Gogo Worldwide Tours to get this winter's tourist season on its feet is now in place with ads starting in the New York Times early in February.
Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas St. John Hotel and Tourism Association, was ecstatic about the anxiously awaited decision.
"I teased the governor," Doumeng said. "I told him if it was the previous administration, this would be cause for a champagne press conference."
The $750,000 campaign is being funded by the Tourism Department, both St. Thomas and St. Croix hotel associations, American and Continental airlines, and Gogo itself. Gogo is the largest tour operator in the Caribbean, handling 80 percent of all travel.
At first the territorial government put up $300,000, but added an additional $154,000. Doumeng commended the efforts of Monique Sibilly- Hodge, acting Tourism commissioner, in securing the funds. Hodge was present at the initial meeting with Bob Lawrence, Gogo vice president, and other hospitality representatives, and has worked on the proposal all along.
Doumeng said that by adding the additional monies, the total figure became higher as it is a cooperative marketing plan, working on a percentage basis from all parties.
"This is the best team effort since Turnbull took office," Doumeng said, adding that it has turned out "even better than I hoped."
Asked if the government's contribution came from the Tourism Revolving Fund, Doumeng said, "I have no idea, and I don't care." He said he is "just happy that we got it." Calls to the Tourism Department remained unanswered.
The campaign will target the U.S. Northeast, the territory's core tourism market, with a series of newspaper ads in area papers such as Connecticut's Hartford Courant. Doumeng said that because the campaign has gotten off expeditiously, he is hopeful that the first ad in the New York Times will appear Feb. 13.
Doumengand other hoteliers and hospitality representatives are off this weekend to Paradise Island, Bahamas, for the Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace, the largest conference of its kind in the Caribbean, with about 3,000 delegates attending.
"With the Gogo proposal in place," Doumeng said, "we now have something positive to bring to the table."