Economic research

Bureau of Economic Research pushes for mandatory hotel data collection

VI Bureau of Economic Research Director Allison DeGazon testifies before members of Government Operations and Consumer Protection on Tuesday. (photo by Legislative Assembly)

Collecting data is essential for government operations and obtaining federal funding, but during Tuesday’s hearing on government operations and consumer protection, VI Bureau of Economic Research Director Allison DeGazon, said hotels were withholding tourist data.

The primary responsibility of the office is to publish economic reports based on accurate and timely data collection that can be used to promote the economic development of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The tourism sector is one of the territory’s biggest economic contributors, but DeGazon said the speed of data is a challenge.

“Sometimes there are delays in receiving data from accommodations and other government agencies,” DeGazon said. “When it comes to hotel data, the office faces the problem of late notification or no notification at all.”

While the issue isn’t new, DeGazon said it has “been exacerbated by both the 2017 hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To combat the hotels’ lack of reporting, DeGazon said the bureau was forced to make cold calls to every private entity and submitted legislation that, if enacted, would compel hotels and markets in the online hosting to submit reports to the office for publication. . She said the office has also begun conversations with the University of Florida’s Office of Economics and Business Research to learn ways to generate tourism data.

It’s not just big hotels that don’t report their data, but a problem that stems from online marketplaces like Airbnb. Without this information, the data collected by the bureau is skewed and any conclusions drawn from the data would prove to be inaccurate.

“Hotels are showing very good growth. However, we know this is not the true reflection of hotel data as we have the introduction of Airbnb in the territory, and right now the office is working on Airbnb data collection and reporting to that we can start reporting those numbers,” the office said. Senior Project Analyst Bernesha Liburd said.

The bureau’s senior policy adviser, Biko McMillan, said “newer private accommodations” don’t always share data with the bureau, and getting the information involves more nuance than just cold calling d ‘hotel. “The struggle right now is understanding the framework of these companies, between them and the Virgin Islands, how we can ensure that we get the data that we need to be able to support them and support our own policies,” McMillian said. . .

Although no solution presented itself, DeGazon told the committee when she became director of the office, she submitted several bills relating to the issue and “would like to see these become a priority” as the office is ready and willing to implement them. changes.

Separately, the committee considered two pieces of legislation; however, no action was taken due to a lack of quorum at roll call. These acts were Bill No. 34-0146, which mandates the erection of a monument at St. Croix in honor of the Fireburn Queens by allocating $250,000 from the Community Facilities Trust Account to the Arts Council of the Virgin Islands, and Bill No. 34-0150 honoring former Governor John Percy deJongh Jr. by naming the new walkway adjacent to the Veterans Drive freeway “John de Jongh, Jr. Promenade”.

Representatives of the West Indian Company Limited were invited to the hearing to brief the committee but did not appear.

The senses. Carla Joseph, Novelle Francis Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger and Javan James Sr. were present at the hearing. Senses Marvin Blyden, Franklin Johnson and Milton Potter were absent. Other non-committee members were also present.

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