Blitz marketing, a greater emphasis on social media and a focus on the bridal segment are among key elements of the U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism Department’s 2011 marketing plan.
"We are mindful that any plan should be flexible and must be shifted and reassessed on an ongoing basis to respond to marketplace changes to capitalize on opportunities," said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
The bottom line: boost visitor arrivals. To date, 2010 visitor numbers through August stood at 513,551, up 7.2% over the same period in 2009. The U.S. market increased 9.3% in that same period.
In the social media arena, the department hopes to use its Facebook and Twitter connections to lure new and repeat visitors. A recent promotion boosted the department’s Twitter following by more than 50%, according to a visitor survey.
The USVI plans to step up blitz marketing events in 2011, according to Nicholson-Doty. Initiatives include saturating a city that has direct or connecting flights to the territory with mall visits, agent receptions and TV appearances.
The bridal market will continue to be a priority in the coming year and will include new promotions to target the bridal honeymoon segment.
To make destination-wedding planning easier, the department’s website at VisitUSVI.com will add a component that links proposals from local wedding vendors to wedding planners.
Nicholson-Doty said that plans to extend the local "Tourism, It’s All of Us" campaign are in the works.
"This campaign reminds Virgin Islanders of the importance of our tourism industry and also informs the community of job opportunities available through tourism," the commissioner said.
In the past year, the department conducted a secret shopper program that rated the Virgin Islands on customer service in a variety of areas, including taxi drivers, local ground operators and hotel staff.
"The data conducted during that program will establish a baseline of our customer service levels. We can also determine from that data what additional training is needed to improve those service areas," Nicholson-Doty said.
The commissioner, who was recently elected vice chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners, said that "it is imperative that the U.S. Territories continue to be a key player in shaping Caribbean tourism."
The council is the highest body of the CTO, responsible for establishing tourism policies for the entire region.