By Guy Britton
This week saw the U.S. Virgin Islands’ 24th annual destination symposium in St. Thomas, and the takeaway was clear: the USVI has big tourism plans, buoyed by strong growth.
The United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism unveiled its new marketing plans for the coming year, with “Real Nice” as the theme for the campaign.
It follows this year’s successful campaign that focused on the 100th anniversary centennial commemoration of Transfer Day in 1917, which included the now-ongoing promotion that gives travelers large spending credits if they book trips to the territory.
Travel Industry officials including hotel and tour operators, airlines and attractions were in attendance, all on hand to get a sneak peek at next year’s creative images and videos.
USVI Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty led the marketing and public relations presentation, with a workshop-style discussion between the audience, Alani Henneman Todman, director of communications, Canika John, Director of Marketing and Luana Wheatley, director of film.
In addition to unveiling plans for “real nice” the team discussed strategies and plans currently in place and coming for the near future.
That included a report on tourism performance for the first quarter, which showed a 5 percent increase year-over-year both in occupancy and ADR.
The commissioner went on to review a 13 percent gain in tourism arrivals in the month of April year over year.
She also discussed new airlift for the summer season including United Airlines increasing their flights from 4 to 7 weekly and American Airlines’ putting larger aircraft into service into the USVI.
They also discussed in detail what could be one of the destination’s biggest growth sectors: culinary tourism.
That includes 2 food tour operations in St. Thomas, the DineVI program, which features special events and many discounts running this fall, along with the farmers market, food and farm tours in St Croix.
The latter has been perhaps the Caribbean’s fastest-growing cuilnary destination, with St. Croix becoming a hub for talented young chefs and gastronomic adventurers, most notably with last year’s debut of the Balter restauant led by Chef Digby Stridiron.
The verdict? A very optimistic outlook for the near future, thanks for what is a unique level of cooperation between the public and private sector tourism associations in the USVI.