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From the News Desk of Travel Radio Expert and host of the nationally syndicated radio travel show, "Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams!"

THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY reacted quickly to set up fundraising initiatives for disaster relief and recovery for Hurricane Katrina victims in the Gulf Coast, including several Caribbean-based industry and tourism associations. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), said that "perhaps more than other people in the world, the members of the CTO, along with all the people of the Caribbean, can empathize with the victims of Hurricane Katrina and understand fully the sense of devastation and loss that they must feel at this time." Vanderpool-Wallace urged CTO members to assist in relief and restoration efforts in "any way that they can." Many members of the Caribbean community in the U.S. responded with offers of housing; the Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism plans to hold a fundraiser, and several local businesses staged a silent auction Sept. 5 with the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. The U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association spearheaded a fundraising drive with a large donation that was matched by the West Indian Co. Ltd., Ritz-Carlton and the Holiday Inn in St. Thomas. Tourism employees also were asked to contribute at least $2 each, which would raise an additional $20,000, according to Beverly Nicholson, association president. All donations will be presented to the USVI chapter of the American Red Cross. The Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association will donate the proceeds from an island-wide garage sale organized by the hotels and members of the tourism community; and Sandals & Beaches Resorts also is donating to the American Red Cross on behalf of Katrina victims.

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