The US Virgin Islands is in the midst of a tourism renaissance, according to recently-released data.
The USVI is reporting close to a 50 percent increase in stay-over arrivals this year.
It’s what the USVI Department of Tourism is calling a “clear signal” that tourism in the territory is on a strong rebound.
The USVI welcomed 347,725 stay-over arrivals on St Thomas for the year to date – a nearly 70 percent increase over 2018, according to Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte.
St Croix has seen an increase of 5.2 percent in the same period, with 117,203 arrivals from January through August this year, according to data from the USVI Bureau of Economic Research.
“We will soon emerge with one of the newer complements of hotels and resorts in the Caribbean, beginning with The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, whose opening date has been moved up from Dec. 1 to Nov. 22 this year,” he said.
With the planned opening of Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Resort & Spa, and Marriott’s Autograph Collection, Noni Beach (both of which were announced this week), along with Renaissance Carambola and Divi Carina Bay on St Croix in 2020, the Boschulte said he was confident that the USVI would build on its growing buzz.
“This represents encouraging news for our major economic engine,” he said.
The news comes as air capacity is set to grow both to St Thomas and St Croix for the winter season.
Indeed, airlift to St Croix will actually pull ahead of 2017 pre-storm levels, while seat capacity to St Thomas is projected to approach 90 percent of pre-storm levels.
As additional accommodations inventory comes back online in 2019/2020, St. Thomas should move closer to its full pre-storm capacity, Boschulte said.
That growth includes the return of JetBlue Airways from Boston, which is currently serving St. Thomas with weekly nonstop Saturday flights through February 9, 2020.
After that, the airline will operate a daily nonstop service between February 13 and April 28, 2020.
American Airlines will serve the Miami-St Croix route with three daily flights for the Thanksgiving holiday (November 23-25 and November 30-December 2), a boost in holiday seats.
American will also extended Charlotte-St Croix flights from Saturday-only to daily during the peak Christmas period – (December 18-24; December 26-30; and January 1-6, 2020).
Additionally, United Airlines will serve the Chicago-St Thomas market with weekly Saturday flights, beginning November 2, 2019, and increase its frequency to three flights per week over the peak winter season (January 7 to March 3, 2020), Boschulte said.
“As we move past the recovery phase, we are beginning to witness a renaissance in the Virgin Islands’ tourism product, and eagerly look forward to a bright future for our industry,” he said.