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USVI tourism down 7% in august

 By John Collins (1)

While activity in St. Thomas and St. John is sluggish, St. Croix is particularly hard hit.

The figures for performance in the tourism sector of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) in August have been released and they indicate that business this year is 7% below the same month last year, according to the USVI government’s Bureau of Economic Research (BER).

From January through August the USVI received 1.64 million tourists – overnight visitors and cruise passengers – a drop of 7% from the 1.8 million for the same period last year. Arrivals of cruise ship passengers were down and hotels in St. Croix reported occupancies of only one-third. The islands of St. Thomas and St. John, registered slight increases in occupancy in August.

The BER report indicated that the occupancy rate in August in St. Thomas and St. John was 55.3%, up slightly from 52.8% a year earlier.. However, in St. Croix the occupancy rate for August dropped to 34.1% from 42.2% last year.

Cruise passenger arrivals were down 7.5% from January through August compared with last year. Except for the May, cruise passenger arrivals every month. But things were really dismal in St. Croix which hasn’t seen a cruise ship since May and that resulted in a drop of 34% overall for the period January through August.

The first ship scheduled to call at St. Croix is the SeaDreamII Oct. 28 and then starting Nov. 17 the 2,000-passenger Constellation will commence weekly calls at St. Croix.

A veteran St. Thomas hotelier reported that his occupancy is close to what it was last year but that his earnings per room is12% below last year. He attributes the situation to “heavy discounting” and said “some chain-owned hotels in St. Thomas are offering rooms for less than $100 a night through December.

Faced with occupancies below 40%, hoteliers on St. Croix complain of a soft market and “little prospects of recovery.” One complained about the damage caused by the reports throughout the U.S. of Carnival pulling its cruise ships out of St. Croix because of increased crime. But managers of some properties in both St. Thomas and St. John  indicated that the adverse publicity about St. Croix can also influence travelers to their destinations.

USVI spot winning praise

On the other hand, getting widespread praise in the territory as well as from former visitors in the U.S., is the current USVI  media campaign in conjunction with American Airlines, US Airways and the USVI Tourism Department. Called “This Land is Your Land,” it features Woody Guthrie’s 1940 folk song that became in the 1960s a virtual anthem for the Baby Boomer generation – a key market for many tourism campaigns today. It includes colorful video highlights of USVI beaches, buildings and people.

Commenting on some of the territory’s current promotional campaigns in the U.S., the USVI Daily News described an airline spot as “attractive but not compelling.” It shows a couple walking along a beach. “This ad is not unique – we’ve seen variations on it, promoting sun, sea and sand for some island somewhere.”

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read at:

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October 14, 2002


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