CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas -- Strategies to attract a larger
share of the mainland market to the U.S. Virgin Islands focus on
the American connection to the territory.
These include a patriotic-themed logo, incentive-filled
off-season packages, niche programs, marketing partnerships, the
launch of a program targeting small properties and toll-free
The strategies were unveiled at the 10th annual Destination
Symposium in St. Thomas, which brought U.S.-based tour operators
and wholesalers together with the Virgin Islands' hoteliers,
carriers and island representatives, plus several marketing and
Internet experts, to discuss challenges facing tourism today.
"We are on a critical path in Caribbean tourism," said Pamela
Richards, commissioner of tourism. "Although the war in Iraq dealt
us another blow, we have a strategic marketing plan in place and
several more components still to be launched. Our visitor numbers
this winter did not suffer as badly as we feared."
Several hoteliers, operators and cruise officials confirmed
Richards' statement of a strong visitor count from December through
February in St. John and St. Thomas.
Richard Doumeng, general manager of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on
St. Thomas, described a "solid winter and a full house for the
Graeme Davis, general manager of the Westin St. John, termed
this winter "the most successful in the history of the
Greg Thorne of Inter-Island Tours reported "a fairly even winter
season with several sellout weeks."
Edward Thomas, president and CEO of the West Indian Co., which
handles cruise ship operations in the Virgin Islands, said as many
as seven ships had docked in St. Thomas on one day this winter, and
many days saw five ships in port at the same time.
Despite that, overall cruise traffic from December to February
was down from the same period a year ago, due mainly to the pullout
of several cruise lines from St. Croix last fall.
The recovery of St. Croix, where visitor numbers are well below
those on St. John and St. Thomas, is the mandate of Gov. Charles
Turnbull, according to Vargrave Richards, his lieutenant
"We must spearhead the economy to drive travel to each of the
U.S. Virgin Islands. We are hopeful that the connection to the U.S.
makes tourists feel safe in traveling to our destination," Richards
Symposium delegates agreed that aggressive marketing campaigns
were needed to move beyond traditional markets.
Thorne pointed out that "this is a sales-driven business. Unless
we can offer real incentives, nothing will fly off the
The new logo calls the territory "America's Caribbean" and
depicts a stylized U.S. flag to promote the connection between the
U.S. and the U.S.V.I.
A component of the radio and cable TV ads running in 13 mainland
markets is a reworked version of Woody Guthrie's folk song, "This
Land is Your Land," whose borders now stretch "from California to
Islands." The ads also include toll-free numbers for information
on tour packages to the U.S.V.I., specifically those offered by AA
Vacations and US Airways Vacations.
Steve Bornn, marketing director of the Department of Tourism,
said the use of the numbers represents a partnership with the two
Glenn Harris, head of Carib-bean marketing and public relations
for American Express, outlined a new partnership venture with the
St. Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Association that debuts in
June and runs through September.
Package features include the fifth night free when four are
booked and paid for with an American Express card; a $50 gift
certificate; and a discount coupon book for use in stores,
restaurants and attractions.
Targeting niche markets was the focus of speaker Keith
Clinkscales, chairman and CEO of Vanguarde Media, which publishes
"No one has really targeted the African-American travel market,
which represents a great marketing opportunity for the U.S. Virgin
Islands," he said.
The Caribbean is the second-most desirable destination for
African-Americans, second only to Europe, according to
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Information: (800) 372-USVI
AA Vacations: (800) 863-7151
US Airways Vacations: (800) 831-4545