Believe me, there are many more than eight, but let’s start with an even number. This June 19-23 event arranged by the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association and hosted by the Sugar Bay Beach Resort & Spa attracted top vacation packagers, technology companies, and hotel representatives. After a few days of site and sight visits, attendees settled in for presentations by important players in the travel industry, as well as meetings. Here are eight of the key points made at the presentations:
- For the first quarter of 2017, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands was up almost 5 percent, said Department of Tourism commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, after which April showed a 13 percent pop over April 2016.
- Airlift keeps increasing. For example, American Airlines recently enlarged the aircraft it uses on St. Thomas flights, United has initiated flights from Dulles International Airport, and United has expanded its Houston-St. Thomas service from four to seven times a week. All those flights from the Southwest to one Caribbean destination—that’s an indication of how well this destination is doing.
- “Forty percent of our advertising has been directed to digital, with a heavy emphasis in social media,” said commissioner Nicholson-Doty. In other words, Millennials matter.
- However, it’s not just young adults who matter. As Nicholson-Doty reminded attendees, “Everyone talks about Millennials, but we cannot ignore the boomers.”
- The USVI’s passportless-entry advantage continues to loom large, especially with group travel. The commissioner told us about a recent on-island wedding with a party of 25: “Fifteen of the guests were able to attend because they didn’t have passports.”
- Culinary tourism is, as Simon Kelly, CEO of Story Worldwide, said at his presentation, “a real differentiator for the USVI.” The 2017 Dine VI will be the largest ever. “The spending credits program has more than 100 restaurants. This is a fun one for us,” said Nicholson-Doty. “Our promotions are aimed at getting tourists out and about on the island.” Sensible as well as effective, because the USVI have always been a safe and exciting destination for exploring.”
- The Department of Tourism will launch a new marketing and advertising program, “Real. Nice.,” near the end of the summer. Marketing director Canika George John said it would encompass marketing materials, ads for TV, print and the internet—”all of our creative assets.”
- Susan Crea-Tighe, a product developer for Delta Vacations, summed up the appeal of the U.S. Virgin Islands to tour operators: “The USVI offers visitors a kaleidoscope of global experiences—and with no passport required—from driving on the left, British-style, to ordering a plate of fungie and saltfish, to pounding out a soca beat with West African moko jumbies.”
Look for an upcoming article in Recommend on the renovations at Sugar Bay, the Westin St. John, Caneel Bay, The Buccaneer, and Fort Christian, not to mention two nice hipster hotels on St. Croix. For more information, visit usvihta.com.