US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

bfemerald1copyEnvironmental Committee: Blue Flag Kicks Off 2016-2017 Season with Flag Raising Ceremonies

The USVI Hotel & Tourism Association along with the VI Conservation Society are pleased to announce the start of the Blue Flag season in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 2016-2017. Blue Flag is an exclusive eco-label promoting sustainable tourism and is awarded to beaches and marinas worldwide who meet the established criteria of the program. It started with ten participating countries in 1987, and today the Blue Flag program continues to grow and has been implemented in 48 countries at more 4,000 beaches and marinas across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.

The four beaches who received this coveted certification are Emerald Beach and Great Bay on St. Thomas, and Green Cay Beach at Tamarind Reef and the Palms at Pelican Cove on St. Croix. Two marinas also received certification and reached their five year milestone Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas and Green Cay Marina on St. Croix. The Blue Flag certification is based on compliance with 32 criteria including environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, and safety and services.

Stay tuned for the new Blue Flag certification for sustainable boating tourism operators. We encourage the boating community to promote sustainable practices and recognize them for their efforts in spreading the word

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.

The process of acquiring Blue Flag certification involves both monetary and manpower investment.  Corporate sponsors the Department of Tourism and Coral World Ocean Park generously contributed to this effort. Key agencies including the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (CZM, EP), CORE, the Department of Tourism, V.I. Waste Management Authority, the Nature Conservancy, the Department of Education, St. Croix Environmental Association, NOAA, University of the Virgin Islands – VIMAS, and the EPA, Department of Energy, provided the staffing to serve on the Blue Flag Jury who conducted inspections of the beaches.

The flags were raised on all four beaches and two marinas on Dec. 1. We encourage residents and visitors to recognize these locations for their hard work and dedication to implementing sound environmentally sustainable tourism practices. For additional information, contact Valerie Peters at

CMI: The CMI committee shared a lot of information in the annual strategic planning session. The committee reviewed the 2016 goals set at last year’s meeting, discussing results and strategizing and budgeting for 2017.

The CMI committee agreed to keep the 2016 Hot Deals with seasonal promotions; however, they would like the offers on the page to be more structured and aligned with ads. The committee also agreed to print an updated brochure.

The committee began planning for the 24th Annual Destination Symposium. Members opted to keep the same format. The symposium will be held June 19 -23 at Sugar Bay.

Our social media presence is solid, with nearly 24,000 fans and over 1 million impressions on Facebook, as well as almost 1500 followers on Twitter. There were over 15,000 sweepstakes entries this year. We had nearly 20,000 views on 25 YouTube uploads. Our website traffic and search engine traffic, however, is down. The committee plans to focus on redesigning the site in 2017 and targeting specific keywords and phrases to drive organic traffic partners. We also plan to optimize allied member pages.

The association continues to operate its Tommy Star Social Media Runway Booth, located in the baggage claim area of the Cyril E. King Airport. Members are encouraged to take advantage of this valuable opportunity at a high-traffic location that allows thousands of visitors to see your information every week.

If you are interested in participating in the Cooperative Marketing Initiative (CMI), please contact the HTA office at 340-774-6835.

Membership Committee: USVIHTA Membership Dues – It’s time to start thinking about 2017, and we are looking forward to another successful year with our members! USVIHTA will continue to offer the excellent benefits you know and love, and is constantly making improvements for our members.

Additionally, as the cost of business has increased, we have had to revisit our dues structure, which has not adjusted to reflect these increases in ten years. Going forward in 2017, dues for Business to Consumer companies will change to $500 annually, but not without its perks!

Also in 2017, restaurants will be able to include their visitor-facing restaurant on the USVIHTA consumer website! The site receives tons of visitors each day looking for places to stay, activities and attractions, dining options and more. Your company photo and a link to your website will appear for a full year on the website, with the first four months free, a $1500 value!

Visit our website to learn more about membership dues and to view each application.