US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association
The USVI Hotel and Tourism Association along with the VI Conservation Society are pleased to announce that, on Dec. 1 2015, six Blue Flags were raised over awarded beaches and marinas throughout the territory. Each location hosted a flag raising ceremony and invited the public. Locations included: the Palms at Pelican Cove (fifth year), Green Cay Marina (fourth year) and Green Cay Beach at Tamarind Reef (first year) on St. Croix; and the Ritz-Carlton (fifth year), Emerald Beach (fifth year) and Crown Bay Marina (fourth year) on St. Thomas.
The 2015-2016 Blue Flag season launch marks five years of successful implementation of the program in the U.S. Virgin Islands and recognizes the three beaches that have reached this benchmark – Palms at Pelican Cove, the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas (Great Bay) and Emerald Beach (Lindberg Bay). In addition, we congratulate a new award recipient – Green Cay Beach at Tamarind Reef Resort. The Blue Flag season in the territory is from Dec. 1 to June 30 and requires annual review.
The Blue Flag program is highly regarded as a prestigious eco-label body by the World Tourism Organization. This year, over 4000 sites around the world were awarded the Blue Flag certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). The International Blue Flag Jury that reviews each application is composed of representatives from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), International Lifesaving Federation (ILS), the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Union for Coastal Conservation (EUCC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an Environmental Education expert, the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) and the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).
For our beaches and marinas to receive a Blue Flag status, it means that global standards are being met when it comes to safety, amenities, cleanliness and environmental standards.
The Blue Flag Program aims at improving the environmental quality of beaches and marinas and the management of coastal areas in a holistic way. It is a system that does not curtail recreation and tourism in the coastal area but rather helps manage it through a wide range of subjects, activities and users that have direct and indirect interactions with the coastal environment.
The Blue Flag Program serves to encourage authorities and managers to provide beaches and marinas with a certain level of environmental quality, cleanliness and safety standards for local populations and tourists.
According to Valerie Peters, Blue Flag USVI Coordinator, “We strive to educate recreational coastal users of the delicate ecosystem they are ‘playing in,’ and encourage sound practices that will help ensure the health of our marine areas for generations to come. Our beaches and marinas play a very important role when it comes to attracting tourism and job creation. It only makes good business sense to protect them.”
We also encourage new sites to take on the Blue Flag challenge. For additional information, visit www.blueflagvi.org.
Advocacy Committee: The Advocacy Committee continues to focus on the tipped minimum wage tax increase that passed the Workforce Development Committee, though it has yet to go before the Rules Committee. Our membership’s restaurants as well as St. Croix restaurants will continue reaching out to senators to ensure they understand the negative impact it will have on the small business owners. The committee also discussed the current challenges with the Economic Development Committee program. Our strategy is to identify the key areas where improvement is needed and take those concerns with suggested solutions to the EDC, legislature and Government House.
Membership Committee: We want to thank those members who joined us on Dec. 2 for our Membership Mixer “A Taste of Frenchtown.” It was a wonderful opportunity for nearly 45 members as they mingled and networked, sharing best practices and meeting new contacts. Members sampled hors d’oeuvres from some of Frenchtown’s finest, including Rum Shandy, Pie Whole and Bella Blu. They also enjoyed a taste of fresh island-hopped craft beers at Frenchtown Brewing Company.
We would like to remind members of our partnership with iVeew, Inc., a leading provider of mobile solutions to the travel and hospitality industry, led by Tom Griffin, a long-time supporter of the Virgin Islands. Griffin has offered an opportunity for us to be one of the first major island destinations to provide our visitors with the ability to utilize their Smartphones to connect your business.
We were able to negotiate a lower sign up rate from the normal $500/year and $.25 cents per download coupon to $200/year and $.10 cents per download coupon. In addition, we capped the $.10 cents per download to a maximum spend of $200.00 per month.
Current advertisers in the airport booth will have the first opportunity to participate. For more information, please contact Tom Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org or Shamari Skelton at email@example.com. To speak to someone right away or participate, contact Nicole Friday at the HTA office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here and here for additional information.
CMI: The CMI committee met Dec. 18 to hold their annual strategic planning session. The committee reviewed their 2015 budget and results from last year’s meeting, and discussed plans for 2016. Plans for 2016 included advertising opportunities, tradeshows we plan to attend, social media outreach and growth, events such as the Destination Symposium, the Airport Reservation Center and more. The committee worked out a plan to allow all members of the association to be able to participate on the consumer site. This plan will be presented to the USVIHTA Board of Directors in the Jan. meeting with our goal to roll it out in Jan.
Additionally, we discussed our growth with Social Caddie, the group that handles all our website and social media management. They have done a great job of substantially increasing our exposure through organic search engine optimization versus traditional pay per click. Our website traffic has grown exponentially, with page views up 319 percent from 2014 to 2015. Our search engine growth is also quite impressive, with the most popular platform, Google, growing by 1,161 percent from 2014 to 2015! Our total referrals from Jack Rabbit also grew at a tremendous rate from 2014 to 2015 with nearly 28,000 additional referrals. Clicks to partner sites also increased by thousands. Social Media stats were also impressive, with Facebook fans up 20 percent and almost 700,000 impressions. We continue to receive consistently high entries for the sweepstakes and are growing on other social media sites as well.
As an added bonus, we attended the Department of Tourism’s presentation on their 2016 Marketing Plan. To view the plan on the DOT website, click here.
If you are interested in participating in the Cooperative Marketing Initiative (CMI), please contact the HTA office at 340-774-6835.