U.S.V.I. allocates $1.5M to bolster marketing campaign


CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Gov. Charles Turnbull announced that $1.5 million has been earmarked for additional tourism advertising as part of the U.S. Virgin Islands' commitment to revamping the territory's tourism industry.

The current ad campaign, a series of two radio and TV commercials running in key U.S. markets, displays scenes of the islands and carries the new tag line, "America's Caribbean."

The governor's announcement came during the seventh annual Destination Symposium, sponsored by the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association in late March.

Bolongo Bay Beach Club & Villas in St. Thomas is one of the properties that hopes to attract cruise ship passengers to return as overnight visitors. The meeting brought together government authorities and travel industry partners to assess the U.S. Virgin Island's tourism product.

Acting tourism commissioner Rafael Jackson acknowledged that although tourism to the U.S. Virgin Islands "has declined over the past five to six years, we are on the rebound and are having one of our better seasons."

Jackson stressed that the industry is "committed to regaining the market share that we have lost in our primary markets and to protecting the flights that now serve the U.S. Virgin Islands."

One of the first projects will be the development of a Tourism Department Web site.

Jackson said the site should be "up and running by October, if not before."

There already is a site at www.usvi.net that was developed and funded by the private sector.

The new Web site will be government-sponsored and -funded and will focus on all aspects of tourism in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the role played by travel agents.

Richard Doumeng, association president, and Beverly Nicholson, executive director, described the marketing program initiated by the hotel association.

A key element of the program is the recently launched year-round Cruise Ship Conversion Program, aimed at attracting cruise passengers to return to the territory as overnight visitors.

Doumeng said that booth space at the Virgin Islands Welcome Center at the cruise ship pier in St. Thomas was donated by Ed Thomas, chief executive officer of the West Indian Co., which operates the pier.

Three kiosks on the walkways at the dock carry brochures on hotels and attractions in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Arrows on the kiosks direct passengers to the Welcome Center booth.

"We are trying to build our own database of potential overnight visitors by having the cruise passengers fill out a sweepstakes card with pertinent information that we can later use for mailings, promotions and marketing," Doumeng said.

One card will be drawn each month, awarding a future trip to the winner. Hotel accommodations will be donated by various properties on a rotating basis.

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