Post-COVID-19 and the Re-Opening of “America’s Paradise”
In line with global trend in flattening the Corona virus curve, the US Virgin Islands put all precautionary measures in place to checkmate the menace of the disease, and till date it has recorded about 72 cases, with 64 recoveries and six deaths. With public health and tourism protocols firmly in place, “America’s paradise” reopened its borders for the return of leisure travelers June 1. According to Commissioner of Tourism, Joseph Boschulte, the protocols will remain in place till July 11.
“We did not want to rush to reopen in reaction to what other destinations are doing. Instead, we have engaged in data-driven , risk-based analysis, in conjunction with the Virgin Islands Department of Health and federal guidance from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, and other stake holders. We are pleased with the across-the-board approach so that key tourism sub-sectors now have specific guidelines.”
Commissioner Boschulte stated that new safety and health guidelines, along with commitment of the people of the Virgin Islands, would assure visitors that the territory’s decision to open its doors is the right one. Guidance includes procedures for operating reception and concierge facilities; cleaning and housekeeping; managing dining rooms; providing technical and maintenance services. There is also specific sub-sector guidance for taxis, van, safari and limo services, restaurants and bars, and accommodation.
From all indications and available datas, interests in visitors returning to the US Virgin Islands are strong with its impeccable tourism icons – lovely beaches, a friendly and hospitable local populace, authentic experiences on St Croix that takes guests on a journey that includes visiting cultural and historical sites and the Food tours that transforms visitors to locals by way of sampling the Island’s local cuisine, and the extraordinary history and culture of the various offerings while strolling the cobblestoned streets of Downtown Christiansted which romantically reminds me of the Malay quarters of Cape Town, South Africa.
“Throughout the pandemic,” Commissioner Boschulte said, “we were greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support and expression of desire from friends around the world to travel to the Virgin Islands. Even though COVID–19 caused us to temporarily close our doors, our hearts remained open. We now look forward to welcoming travelers back to their home away from home.”
When you visit, I highly recommend for all Afro-philes to check out Glady’s Cafe for lunch in Charlotte Amalie where Gladys and her sister will smother you with love and hospitality topped off by their authentic Africa-influenced Caribbean cooking that reminded me of home. Dinner at the Terrace was equally memorable with the bubbly Desiree Wilkes of the Department of Tourism and her sister whose Afrocentric hairdo caught our attention. Our guide/driver Kenneth Lewis in St. John was a class act. Fiercely proud of his Island and its culture, Kenneth made me understand that the Islanders are born to please visitors which he demonstrated by going over and above the call of duty to explain, and made sure that all of our every inquiring salvos were professionally handled.
Traveling to St Croix from St Thomas by seaplane, we were welcomed by Ms. Sharon Rosario and Mr. Ames Joseph. Obviously the most cultural of all the Islands, we were regaled with tales of this historically important island city. Most memorable was the visit to Estate Whim Museum with its slave quarters, Great House, mill and factory complex as the only sugar plantation in the Virgin Islands. Standing elegantly in the middle of the expansive property are the 18 century buildings “that stand as a testimony to the skills and labor of enslaved Africans in the Caribbeans.”
Interested in the literati and the confluence of literary ideas between Africa and the Caribbean, a visit with Professor Alscess Lewis Brown will be worth your every while. A fanatical student of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka of Nigeria, Alscess of the University of the Virgin Islands in St Croix, is a quintessential example of why the US Virgin Islands can arguably be described as the real authentic piece of Africa in the Caribbean over and above the other Island destinations in the Americas.
“My dream is to host my hero, Professor Soyinka in the Virgin Islands. To me, He is a god. Just being in the same space as him will do it for me. The other African writer I will love to have attend our event is Chimamanda Adichie, author of “Half The Yellow Sun” , and “Americanah.”