St. Thomas Update?
Most of the discussion on the forum revolves around STX, and that is where wife and I have been visiting extensively for past 12-14 years. Prior to discovering STX, we visited STT several times, even honeymooned there many (41) years ago. Wondering how STT has been affected, especially with the cruise ship shutdown that has occurred. Any insights as to what is going on, on STT?
Been living in STT since before your honeymoon so I have seen quite a few problem times here -- the various current shutdowns - ships - hotels - non-essential businesses - on premise dining - bars - beaches etc. have had a devastating effect on the economy - luckily not as destructive as hurricanes in the past because the basic infrastructure still remains operative, so the wounds are quite different. The cruise ship money gets spread around over time and we have seen shutdowns and slow seasons before.
Some businesses will not survive - some families will move when it seems safe somewhere else - many people have had their savings wiped out - Not entirely different than many stateside places and probably not much different than STX.
Island life is ultimately better without cruise ships. The spending power of the cruiser has been in decline for years. The type of mass tourism created by cruise ship industry is a bottom echelon. They do not spend money beyond booze and cigs. Having 10 ships in the port can double the island population during the daytime, test fragile environment and infrastructure. There has to be a better way to develop tourism. Attract more affluent customer. Trade quantity for quality.
There has to be a better way to develop tourism. Attract more affluent customer. Trade quantity for quality.
You pose an interesting question, 'what is the best model for a tourism based economy'? It's been my observation that the USVI's (STX, STT & STJ) are kind of a petri dish for different tourism models. Roughly speaking STT is the Cruise Ship model, STJ is the affluent tourist and seasonal resident model and STX has tried a number of things but doesn't really have a strategy, just a little of everything. Of the three STJ seems to have found the best outcome of the three main islands (IMHO).
Maybe as usual, the USVI's seem to have 90% of what's needed for success but just can't put the last couple of pieces in place. I'm convinced, at least on STX, that if the crime and lack of quality medical care issues could be resolved (fixed), there would be an explosion (in a good way) of both affluent tourism and seasonal living that would drive a huge new wave of capital investment that would transform both the economy and overall quality of life for virtually all the citizens of the territory.
The problem is the Government is so busy working on the "urgent" that nothing is being done on what is actually "important" to the future of the islands and its people.
Of the three STJ seems to have found the best outcome of the three main islands (IMHO).
The problem being that: that model forces the local and native population to sell the family home because of high taxes, land valuations increase dramatically - the culture disappears and the colonists rule the roost.
STJ is a perfect example -- maybe Mustique is your dream island?
There has to be a better way to develop tourism. Attract more affluent customer. Trade quantity for quality.
I'm convinced, at least on STX, that if the crime and lack of quality medical care issues could be resolved (fixed), there would be an explosion (in a good way) of both affluent tourism and seasonal living that would drive a huge new wave of capital investment that would transform both the economy and overall quality of life for virtually all the citizens of the territory.
There will NEVER be a "huge new wave of capital investment" until WAPA, the government owned electric utility, reduces rates by at least half or more and increases reliability significantly. As a long time business owner here, I can attest that this is the single biggest issue for business and the economy as a whole in the VI. I can't see the cost of electricity here improving anytime soon. In fact, its getting worse as the hapless utility and government are powerless to stop the onslaught of residential solar.
The next big issue will be climate change. With hurricanes increasing in strength and frequency, its only a matter of time when insurance becomes unaffordable (its almost that now) or unavailable altogether. How many investors are willing to bring capital here under those circumstances? As we've seen already...not many even with the promise of near zero taxes.
There's a lot more people leaving the islands than coming unfortunately. My business, like most, is going digital and thankfully soon I won't have to have a physical presence anymore.
My comments were specifically focused on affluent tourism and seasonal residents (who are by definition affluent). This segment of the population will not be put off by the cost of electricity if the other elements of the product are attractive.
I fully agree that WAPA is a tough problem to resolve and it effects a large portion of the community. However, like many who can afford the one time investment (and I am by no means rich) I have installed a solar system with battery storage, so I am now largely immune from WAPA's shortcomings.
As for hurricanes, it's a reality of the Caribbean, that those who choose to live here accept.
I still believe that the biggest barriers to attracting the affluent tourist and seasonal resident consumer are the crime and health care issues. Both are addressable if the territorial government decides to actuality take action. Real estate prices on STJ is close to 2X that of STX, I attribute this to crime alone more than any other factor. We have several friends who live there are they all share the opinion that crime is the biggest negative to wanting to live on STX.
I don’t agree, Martha’s Vineyard is almost exactly the same size as STX, has well as a summer population approaching 100K people, modest public park facilities (but lovely beaches) but has low crime and marginally adequate medical facilities, yet has the highest real estate costs in Massachusetts, which is saying something. Not to mention the Obama’s as one of their newest seasonal residents. There are also a lot of folks that are connected to both Martha’s Vineyard and the USVI’s. Ironically, it was also the hurricane of 1938 that caused my family to become connected with Martha’s Vineyard, which has lasted for 4 generations, so far.
It is easier to isolate from crime on STT than STX. Most affluent families in STT live on the North side or Peterborg. This includes local black families and Frenchies as well. Access to these compounds is difficult because of geography. Most crime happenes in Charlotte, Tutu and generally flatter areas on the south. There is some crime on the east end of STT as the area is easily accessible.
- By contract STX is flatter and much more accessible due to topography.
The islands that successfully developed into power houses include Taiwan, Singapore and HongKong all have few things in common. Freedom to operate the business, law and order, no corruption, investment in infrastructure, low taxes. Actual democracy is optional and not necessary for success.
All this half ass measures and pussy footing the VI government does of running independent black republic sucking on federal tits is a grand joke of the century. None of the conditions needed for success have ever been created by these clowns.
Not to worry, the USVI's are not, despite the desires of a few, going to secede from the US. If they somehow managed this there would be a mass exodus of residents, myself included as being part of the US was the number one reason we chose USVI's rather than a number of other very good options (BVI's, St. Maarten and Anguilla as examples). The loss of a wide variety of indirect and direct Federal funding would devastate the local economy, almost beyond words. The citizens of the USVI's have benchmarked the US for their standard of living, something that would be unrealistic if the islands were to be disconnected from the US. Having a rich Uncle Sam has been a good thing on balance. I won't comment on the local government other than to say they (we) face some serious economic challenges in the near-term and this will negatively impact the folks who depend most on government for their daily survival.
None of this detracts from the obvious potential the islands hold. I'm not even close to being the first person to make this observation. It remains frustrating that the needed last little bits can't quite seem to fall into place.
These islands especially STX are full of potential, but government and many of the citizenry will fight real progress tooth and nail for the exact reason stated about. Tourism is not really wanted, especially affluent tourism, just keep everything just above 3rd world status. A balance of tourism and keeping the culture can happen but it will be blocked at every change. For every two steps forward we make, some clowns will take us three steps back. I still love it here though. I've just accepted that for what it is.
I've just accepted that for what it is.
I’m with you on that one. In just over 5 months I’m retired, save a few hours a week of consulting I’ve agreed to for an additional 15 months, so I’m done fighting battles. My focus will be on family, friends and modest ways where I can contribute to the community. But after almost 45 years of working my days of confrontation, butting heads and trying to change the world are almost over, I’ve paid my dues, there’s more than enough on STX already to keep me occupied and happy.
I think most of us are in the same boat and state of mind. We are all here to enjoy following successful careers on the mainland and try to avoid frustrations except for occasional wake up call of what this place could have been.
At least we excel in murders for sport. Number One in North America and number 4 in the world behind Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela.
So when someone inquired about section 8 housing in VI I had a nice chuckle. Statistically speaking they want to move to the most deadly favela in N America. Perhaps it makes sense if moving from East LA, South Chicago or North Philadelphia.
I just checked and discovered that as of 2017 16% of the population in the US were 65 or over, this is predicted to reach 22% by 2050, so the retired segment of the overall population is significant and growing. I also believe that historically retired people in the northern/colder parts of the country have continued to migrated south, hence Texas and Florida have gradually become 2nd of the 3rd most populous states. To me it's not surprising that the folks on this blog are retired, near retirement or thinking long-term towards retirement. It may also be true that the younger demographic is less likely to do detailed planning before making the 'leap of faith' required to move to the USVI's.
As someone who has lived and owned a business in the VI for 16 years, I'm actually looking forward to moving back to the mid-west where we own another home. We've considered Florida and other warm southern states, but, we're just really tired of hurricanes. Its only going to get worse.
I’m posting this under a couple of different categories because I really am looking for some insight, and find this particular thread parallels a bit of what I’m asking, so excuse the fact that it’s a bit of a segue... (Although it does apply to some of the comments above about luring affluent non-tourist, permanent residents)...
I am new here on this forum, so I hope this is the right place to be asking this...I have been looking to move from stateside for quite some time and USVI has been on my radar for about three years (it was that darn HGTV Caribbean Life show that introduced me!).... but what is the current “tone” regarding the local economy and the future of it for USVI? The whole world is in a weird place because of Covid, obviously, but BOTH the political unrest in the US combined with covid have forced many people in the states to really analyze why they are living where they are. The major topic of conversation in the states right now is: “Where will you be moving post-election?” Today, a large percentage of the population here is contemplating a move out of the US in their not so distant future...and now that everyone realizes how doable their jobs are by working remotely, I actually predict a mass exodus (even if temporarily) from the states to other parts of the world. As an entrepreneurial minded person, I see that as a potential boon for USVI’s economy, but as I’ve read on many forums over the years, it sounds like USVI’s infrastructure wouldn’t necessarily be able to handle an influx of new residents. Is this ever a discussion amongst the residents there? Are you aware of this current buzz in the states for relocating outside the US mainland? And are those of you who live there feeling optimistic about the conditions there and potential for a future upswing in the economy/tourism/or opportunities for other industries not related to tourism? Over the last three years I’ve seen more and more comments on forums that the islands have recently become depressed (hurricanes notwithstanding), more riddled with drugs and crime because the decrease in tourism has hurt the local economy, and people have moved away.
SORRY for the rambling! Any insight is appreciated! Thanks!
how do you like STX so far?
So far I (we) love it. Personally I haven't really spent a full winter season there, although my wife did this last year, up until COVID-19 drove her back to MA for the summer. We always planned on being seasonal residents, but I did spend a couple of really fun weeks there this July, with my youngest daughter and 3 of her friends. As with most new arrivals we've been hard at work making the home we purchased in January 2019 the way we want it. I'd say we're 90% there at this point and I've been pleasantly surprised with the local business people and service providers. I was honestly expecting more "island time" delays than I've seen, given COVID-19 as an added delay factor this year and we've done a number of projects. My wife and I will both be on STX from late November to mid-May and that will be our future routine. I've always dreamed of escaping to a tropical island, knowing full well that's only a metaphor for a carefree existence, so with retirement I'm going to give it a try.