ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (March 22, 2012)–The Caribbean’s tourism leaders will assemble in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) next week to discuss the critical importance of regional tourism.

The USVI Department of Tourism announced that Sen. Richard “Ricky” Skerritt, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and Hugh Riley, CTO secretary-general, will visit St. Thomas for high-level meetings with Gov. John P. de Jongh, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty and local hotelier Richard Doumeng, president-elect of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.

On Monday, March 26, the Department of Tourism will host a breakfast presentation for industry stakeholders and the general public featuring Skerritt, who doubles as St. Kitts and Nevis’ minister of tourism and international transport. Skerritt, a former manager of the West Indies cricket team, will address the theme “There’s Never Been a More Crucial Time in Caribbean Tourism” at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Resort.

“We in the USVI are honored to host such respected leaders of Caribbean tourism,” said Nicholson-Doty.

She encouraged USVI stakeholders to broaden their vision of promoting tourism to the Caribbean region. “A rising tide floats all boats, and it is important that we are all on board with our regional partners,” she said.

Promoting the importance of cooperation in the Caribbean’s most important industry, she contended that true competition comes from “outside the region, not within.”

The high-level talks come on the heels of the department’s Strategic Visioning Retreat this week, one of the steps to developing a rolling five-year tourism development plan.

“There will be a hive of intellectual activity throughout the territory over the next two weeks,” said Nicholson-Doty. This activity is being generated in part by the regional and international tourism experts–from cruise lines to romance market experts–in the territory for the retreat.