Nov. 20, 2005 Dick Doumeng, six-time president of what is now the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association, made the point Saturday night that despite hurricanes, plane crashes and the downfall of at least three airlines that once served the V.I., tourism had continued to thrive.
He called the men and women who had survived, "resilient."
Doumeng was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Tommy Star Awards and Gala, and the recipient of the 2005 Tommy Star Award of Excellence.
Doumeng has served the tourism community as a hotel owner, founding member of the then St. Thomas/St. John Hotel Association and mentor to many in the industry for more than 30 years.
He took a walk down "memory lane" for the more than 350 people gathered at Marriott Frenchman's Reef to celebrate Doumeng and several others honored for their achievements in the hotel and tourism industry.
Doumeng recalled the early days of the association when members met in a "borrowed hotel room at the Windward Passage." He said, "If the hotel had full occupancy, they threw us out."
In those days, Doumeng said, the islands had about 450,000 overnight guests and 220,000 cruise ship passengers. "Someone predicted there would someday be more cruise ship passengers than hotel guests," Doumeng quipped. "Maybe it was Ed Thomas," he said, referring to the now-president of West Indian Co. Ltd. managers of the cruise ship dock at Havensight.
In 2004 about 1.5 million people arrived on cruise ships compared to about 500,000 overnight visitors.
Doumeng said no one in the old days really came to the island with training in the hotel business.
And, he said, "Back then there were six tour operators." Five of the six went out of business, he said, when Pan Am and Eastern Airlines folded. TWA followed.
Doumeng took the time to tell a few stories about one professional who did come to St. Thomas in the early days and, who Doumeng said, was responsible for the tremendous success of Frenchman's Reef Nick Pourzal. Doumeng said Pourzal "ate and slept … at his hotel" in his efforts to make the project successful.
Pourzal was Frenchman's general manager for more than 20 years.
In introducing his father, Richard Doumeng said, his father has survived in a "hard business at a tough time in history."
Richard pointed out that probably half of Saturday night's audience had worked for his father at one time.
One of the people who still does, Leslie Phipps, was among the nominees for this year's awards.
Other nominees for a variety of awards were: Tim Thomas Stevermer; Carambola Beach Resort; Valissa Hodge, Coral World; March Heistand, Seaborne Airlines; Isadore Wiltshire, St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point; Jacklyn Harrigan Francis, Diamonds International; Joseph Johnlewis, Old Stone Farmhouse; Sharon Flamon, Frenchman's Reef; Lionel Brown, The Westin St. John Resort; Erica Maynard, The Ritz-Carlton; Patience Morson; The Ritz Carlton; Lillia E. King, Schneider Regional Medical Center; Karen Powell, Westin St. John Resort; James Penn, James Penn Taxi Service; Coleen Thomas, West Indian Co. Ltd.; Marina Estemac, Chalet D'Or; Julien Dieufeter, Host U Services; Hilroy Lewis, V.I. Taxi Association; Julia DuBouis, Blue Water Grille; and Rahkeem Todman, Caribbean Sun Airlines.
The winners were:
Lillia King, Public Service Associate of the Year.
Marcy Heistand, Airline Associate of the Year.
Karen Powell, Hospitality Support Service Associate of the Year.
Joseph Johnlewis, Restaurant Associate of the Year.
Jacklyn Harrigan Francis, Retail Associate of the Year.
Hilroy Lewis, Taxi Operator of the Year.
Erica Maynard, Hotel Supervisor of the Year.
Patricia Morson, Hotel Associate of Year.
Valissa Hodge, Coral World.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.