US Virgin Islands Tourism Is Booming
It’s been one of the biggest success stories in Caribbean tourism since the onset of the pandemic: the US Virgin Islands, which expertly navigated the uncertain waters of the pandemic and came out with record-breaking numbers.
Indeed, from June 2021 to May 2022, the US Virgin Islands had the highest hotel occupancy in the Caribbean, with a 72.5 percent number, according to data from STR.
The USVI also led the region in average daily rate at $637 and revenue per available room, $461.61, during the same period.
And the numbers keep getting even better.
In a sizzling start to 2022, first-quarter visitor arrivals surged 153 percent compared to the same period in 2021, with a total of 452,764 visitors, according to Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte.
The USVI also saw a rapid increase in new airlift during the pandemic; Transportation Security Administration data showed that the USVI was the fastest-growing location for total airlift capacity in the Americas from 2019 to 2021.
The hope, Boschulte tells Caribbean Journal, is for these numbers to stay strong.
“Based on our tourism numbers for Fiscal Year 2022 and projecting into next year, we are feeling confident that visitation to the U.S. Virgin Islands will continue on an upward trajectory,” Boschulte says. “Thanks to our efforts in attracting more airlift, our overnight visitor numbers have soared, leading to record hotel occupancy for the Territory.”
The US Virgin Islands has also seen its cruise industry, which was largely dormant for the calendar year 2021, rebound in a big way.
The USVI is projected to see more than 450 calls and 1.4 million passengers in the fiscal year 2023, up from just under 250 calls and around 480,000 passengers in fiscal year 2022.
The aim is to add 70 percent more passengers to Crown Bay in St Thomas, and to triple the numbers in St Croix’s cruise port in Frederiksted in 2023.
The latter will come from a major expansion by Royal Caribbean, which is adding three times it’s passenger volume to Frederiksted, it announced at SeaTrade earlier this year.
“With airlift at record highs and continuing to increase, thanks to our aggressive efforts to attract new service, and with the return of the cruise business this year, we expect our visitor numbers to match or exceed the pre-pandemic year of 2019,” he said.
“We are not resting on past efforts. Working closely with government leadership and local tourism partners, we are continuing to develop programs and products that will attract new and repeat visitors, including in the meetings, incentives, conventions and events (MICE) business,” Boschulte says. “We are ensuring we are top of mind with travel advisors and the media, using our social media platforms and other trade and public relations efforts to keep these audiences engaged and informed.”