US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

Tommy Gala Committee: David Hall and Colleagues Honored at USVIHTA Tommy Awards & Gala

University of the Virgin Islands President David Hall and nine outstanding individuals employed in the tourism industry were honored Nov. 14 at the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association’s 14th Annual Tommy Star Awards and Gala. Nearly 300 guests gathered at the Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Resort to celebrate our Tommy Stars with an event that was truly “Out of this World.”
The association was thrilled to honor Hall with the elite Award of Excellence. His dedication to education and his work with hospitality and tourism have contributed greatly to the territory. Hall has taken tremendous strides for higher education and has been an integral part of UVI’s Hospitality Degree Program. His work has allowed the association and its members to become involved in educating the future leaders of tourism through internships and lectures.

“I was motivated to help create the program because it was clearly something that needed to be done to fulfill a great need,” Hall said. “By promoting the existence of the program and the existence of the university in all tourism outreach efforts, we enhance the appeal of the Virgin Islands. Tourists, business investors and leaders of major corporations need to understand that the Virgin Islands can produce the skills, values and insights that they need in order to live, enjoy and prosper in the territory.”

The degree is part of a four-year bachelor’s program in hospitality and tourism management. Each student must complete approximately 200 to 300 hours in internships within the industry. There are nearly 100 students on St. Thomas and St. John participating in internships through the program. Students participate in tours, site visits, lectures, hospitality community projects and special events, laboratory experiences and more.
The exclusive Tommy Star Award of Excellence is presented to a Virgin Islander who has made a significant contribution to the success of our tourism industry. Past Award of Excellence winners have shown their dedication to tourism through their careers, community outreach, advocacy and a desire to learn and evolve.

“It is our pleasure each year to show our appreciation for those employed in the tourism industry by hosting the Tommy Awards. We recognize all of the wonderful things you do to make each guest experience unique and memorable,” said USVIHTA President Lisa Hamilton. “We hope the award recipients will share what they have learned with their colleagues, and that we can continue to nurture a culture of tourism awareness here in the territory.”

Nine additional awards were given to hospitality and tourism employees who demonstrate an unwavering dedication to tourism. Winners were announced in the following categories: Airline Associate of the Year Jerome Kendall, aircraft maintenance technician for American Airlines; Attraction/Activity Associate of the Year Claude Belle, slot machine technician at Divi Carina Bay Casino; Hospitality Support Service Associate of the Year Kelson Thomas, system analyst at the Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Resort; Public Service Representative of the Year Alani Henneman Todman, the Department of Tourism’s Media and Travel Manager; Restaurant Associate of the Year Olvis Butler, junior sous chef at the Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort; Retail Associate of the Year Holly Fletcher, assistant store manager at Diamonds International; Taxi Operator of the Year Levi Liburd, driver for Island Meetings and Incentives; Hotel Associate of the Year Kervin Dover, engineer at the Westin, St. John Resort and Villas; and Hotel Supervisor of the Year Akima Marsh, front desk manager at the Westin, St. John Resort and Villas.

In additional to the awards ceremony, guests enjoyed a colorful, energetic performance from the Caribbean Ritual Dancers, a delicious dinner courtesy of the Marriot Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Resort, and a great opportunity to network with colleagues and friends.

The USVIHTA 14th Annual Tommy Star Awards and Gala was graciously sponsored by the USVI Department of Tourism, the Resort Owners Coalition, VI-ATM, LLC, the West Indian Company, Limited, the Marriot Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Resort, Concert Works, Designed by Felipe, and Concessions International. Proceeds from this event help to fund the association’s Education and Training Committee programs.

Reef Fest 2015_2Environmental Committee: The Environmental Committee gathered in Nov. to discuss many upcoming projects. Valerie Peters returned from the Foundation for Environmental Education meeting in Holland. In the three days of meetings, attendees reviewed the changes taking place with Blue Flag. The scuba diving changes are most relevant to our area, with more than 60 criteria for diving. There is a new database for FEE international called PODIO. This allows all organizations to communicate in real time. There is also a new website – Additionally, Peters shared initiatives other countries are putting into place to help spread the word about Blue Flag. The committee plans to look into these initiatives and put some into practice.

An eco-schools conference took place in Belfast in Nov. Paul Chakroff gave an update on the schools he has met with and they are very excited about this initiative.

Howard Forbes reported plans to organize an event called Art by the Sea. They will partner with artists who will turn trash into sculptures. They are also asking students to create costumes out of trash and there will be a fashion show at the event. Dates TBA.

Reef Fest_2015 4Additionally, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service of the University of the Virgin Islands in association with Blue Flag USVI – Virgin Islands Conservation Society and the Reef Fest organizers want to thank the community for another successful Reef Fest!

Over 500 attendees gathered Nov. 7 at Coral World to support marine education. We gave out over 30 great raffle prizes including overnight stays, activity passes, services and gifts, and much more. Exhibitors included Fish and Wildlife, CZM, CORE, Lockhart School, UVI – VIMAS, Coral World, Blue Flag USVI, Eco Schools, VIERS watershed model, the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service. We had presentations throughout the day from various professors and UVI students, a Lion Fish cooking demonstration and sampling, music by DJ Eric Snow and the Radical Excess Band, and Charlotte Amalie High School students took home first place for the Reef Rap contest!

The goal of St. Thomas Reef Fest is to empower communities to protect their reefs and convey the importance of the marine resources. To this end, a diverse array of activities is organized each year to ensure success in meeting our goals: to raise awareness of coral reef values, promote environmental stewardship and strengthen natural resource management and conservation.

Advocacy Committee: The Advocacy Committee continues to focus on the tipped minimum wage tax increase that passed the Workforce Development Committee two weeks ago and will move onto the Rules Committee in early Dec. Our membership’s restaurants as well as St. Croix restaurants are reaching out to the various senators to ensure they understand the negative impact it will have on the small business owners. Although the association agrees that an increase is needed, the timeline of going from $7.25 to $10.50 in 24 months is too aggressive. If you are interested in participating in the survey, please contact the HTA office at 340-774-6835. The committee also discussed the current challenges with the Economic Development Committee program. Our strategy is to identify the key areas where improvement is needed and take those concerns with suggested solutions to the EDC, legislature and Government House. Based on our testimony concerning Cuba, Sen. Young along with the Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty have set up a meeting with public and private sector representatives to address key areas of improvement needed to stay competitive. These areas include infrastructure, trash, crime and transportation. The meeting will be held Dec. 1, and we look forward to sharing the positive action steps in the next newsletter.

VI Coupons AdVI Coupons AdMembership Committee: We hope members will join us on Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. in Frenchtown for our Membership Mixer “A Taste of Frenchtown.” Sample hors d’oeuvres from some of Frenchtown’s finest, including Rum Shandy, Pie Whole and Bella Blu. Get a taste of fresh island-hopped craft beers at Frenchtown Brewing Company. Free for HTA members. Call the USVIHTA office at 340-774-6835 if you have any questions.

We would like to remind members of our partnership with iVeew, Inc., a leading provider of mobile solutions to the travel and hospitality industry, led by Tom Griffin, a long-time supporter of the Virgin Islands. Griffin has offered an opportunity for us to be one of the first major island destinations to provide our visitors with the ability to utilize their Smartphones to connect your business.

We were able to negotiate a lower sign up rate from the normal $500/year and $.25 cents per download coupon to $200/year and $.10 cents per download coupon. In addition, we capped the $.10 cents per download to a maximum spend of $200.00 per month.

Current advertisers in the airport booth will have the first opportunity to participate. For more information, please contact Tom Griffin at or Shamari Skelton at To speak to someone right away or participate, contact Nicole Friday at the HTA office at Click here and here for additional information.