US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association
The 2017-2018 winter tourism season in the U.S. Virgin Islands presents many opportunities for medium and small hotels, timeshares, and the marine and cruise ship industries, said USVI Hotel and Tourism Association President Lisa Hamilton. She noted that the territory is currently in a recovery economy, likely until Dec. 2017, as most properties are hosting relief workers.
In its first meeting after Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the territory in Sept., the USVIHTA Board of Directors discussed the status of association members, including accommodations ranging from small villas to large resorts, timeshares, activities, attractions, restaurants, shops, marine, air and cruise lines.
Projections for the upcoming 2017-2018 winter tourism season show that a majority of the large resorts and hotels on St. Thomas and St. John will remain closed for renovations and repair. However, medium and small properties as well as businesses on St. Thomas and St. John in addition to properties and businesses on St. Croix will be ready to open once power is restored to each island. While these are the current predictions, the schedule is flexible.
“The closure of the largest properties in the territory at the same time is not ideal, but it presents opportunities for us to renovate and update the tourism product. And while the hotels focus on revealing a polished, new product, USVIHTA will continue to promote properties and members who came out of the storms with minimal damage,” said Hamilton. “Many of our members are up and running, and ready to welcome guests today. However, restoring the territory’s infrastructure, airport and hospitals is essential prior to welcoming visitors back.”
USVIHTA representatives and hoteliers met with Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty and the Department of Tourism on Oct. 18 to discuss members’ status and how best to promote tourism in the territory. The commissioner asked for timelines from hotels regarding prospective open dates, noting that the department plans to align marketing with hotels as they reenter the marketplace.
“Everyone is invested in creating a renewed and re-energized product, even those who are still assessing damages. The focus on community and human capital is paramount,” Hamilton noted.
Last week, representatives from the cruise industry visited the territory to discuss returning cruise ship traffic, which will resume in early Nov. The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands is working closely with downtown real estate and retailers to make this happen. Water transit in the USVI and to the British Virgin Islands is operating in conjunction with curfews. Airports have reopened to commercial traffic and plan to expand flight options based on demand.
Properties ready to open in 2017 include: Lindberg Bay Hotel and Villas, Mafolie Hotel, Island View Guesthouse, Windward Passage Hotel, Gallows Point Resort and St. Croix accommodations. Properties projected to open in 2018 include: Emerald Beach Resort (Jan.), Marriott Frenchman’s Cove (Feb.), Margaritaville Vacation Club, Wyndham (Feb.), The Ritz-Carlton Club, St. Thomas (Feb.), Elysian Beach Resort (spring), Bolongo Bay Beach Resort (June), Bluebeard’s Beach Club (fall), The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas (Oct.) and The Westin St. John Resort and Villas (Oct.). Properties projected to be closed until 2019 include: Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, Sugar Bay Resort and Spa, Caneel Bay Resort and Flamboyan on the Bay Resort and Villas.