In her welcoming address, Hon. Beverly Nicholson Doty, Commissioner of Tourism, assured the delegates to the 15th Annual USVI Destination Symposium that her department was moving forward on all initiatives set forth when she was appointed to this position.
USVI Hotel & Tourism Association chairman
Richard Doumeng presents an award to
tourism commissioner Beverly Nicholson
Doty. Looking on are Pat Henry, president
of the St. Croix Hotel &Tourism Association
and Lisa Hamilton, the USVI
Hotel & Tourism Association president.
“While we’re progressing comfortably, we are very aware of the challenges ahead, especially regarding the airline cuts. In fact, we have been working with airlines on solutions for the past year, well before American Airlines’ announcement that has now been followed by others. What cities are most important to us? What are we willing to do to maintain a moderate status quo? The department is actively and aggressively addressing these issues so that we can reach solutions that will continue marketing growth.”
Commissioner Nicholson Doty told TravelAge West that the United States will always be the USVI’s core market, but it is not prudent for any business to ‘put all it’s eggs in one basket.’ Since the dollar value is so favorable to the Euro, Europe is the natural extension for market growth.
As buyers and suppliers moved around the floor to pre-arranged meetings, U.S. tour operators negotiated with mixed feelings. Since blocked seats are no longer an option without secured deposits up front, packaging air and hotel requires an entirely new system. Joe Zurenko, general manager of sales and operations at Rockwell Tours, feels safe with the signed commitments for seats and rates his company already had in place from a number of airlines flying into the territory. Although Earl Powell, general manager at King Christian Hotel on St. Croix, enjoys a steady stream of guests from Denmark throughout the year, he still pursued other outlets at the Symposium.
In his address to the delegates, recently elected Governor John DeJongh, Jr. listed a number of new developments and major renovations: Marriott Frenchman’s Cove and Dolphin Cove on St. Thomas; Pond Bay on St. John; Wyndham St. Croix Golf Resort & Casino, Palms at Pelican Cove, King’s Alley and Company House (formerly Danish Manor) on St. Croix.
“We are initiating visitor surveys so we can listen to the consumer and re-tool the product to meet these needs,” he explained. “We plan to further develop the vertical product experiences: dive, romance, culture and heritage. Above all, we want to express our appreciation to those tour operators and their travel agent partners who sold more than 200,000 room nights to our destination in 2007, representing more than $50 million in revenue.”
Additionally, the Department of Tourism is introducing a completely redesigned user-friendly website, showcasing hotels and attractions on all three islands. An enhanced arrival experience at St. Croix and St. Thomas airports greets visitors with rum tasting, local music and a warm V.I. welcome. The Film Promotion Office is being revived, after too many dormant years, to bring back the many movies and television shows that were filmed here and gained so much exposure for the islands.
Most importantly, the USVI Travel Agent Specialists program will receive renewed attention with increased advertising, promotion and incentives. All six tourism offices in the United States are going virtual, bringing them closer to the agents with personal visits. The USVI Department of Tourism and the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association cooperatively host a series of receptions around the country to bring the islands to you. Los Angeles is on the list of cities to be visited. Since fam trips are still recognized as the best teachers, the welcome mat is always out for travel agents to visit St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.