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V.I. AD BLITZ TO CONTINUE OVER SUMMER, BUT…

Department of Tourism officials are hoping the combination of sweltering summer weather on the mainland and enticing advertising of the islands will mean more visitors to the territory in the coming months.
At a meeting of the St. Croix Accommodations Council Tuesday, Acting Tourism Commissioner Rafael Jackson said a "fast-track" ad blitz in the north and southeast is aimed at replicating the success of an ad campaign that ended earlier this month. During that effort, calls to the department’s 1-800 information line tripled compared to the same time last year, Jackson said.
"It indicated that the ads did generate some awareness," he said. "Our objective was to create a positive image for the destination, especially among the travel agents."
The summer campaign – set for June, August and September – will consist of radio and TV ads in 11 markets including Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, the greater Washington, D.C., area, New York-New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and a limited effort in San Francisco.
Tourism opted to skip July because of the Independence Day holidays.
Additionally, spot TV ads will be aired on Sunday nights to catch as many viewers as possible, Jackson said.
"We can better reach the audience on Sunday evening when people are returning back home," he said.
A print ad campaign will also be undertaken over the summer, Jackson said, including placements in Oprah Winfrey’s new magazine ‘O’ in September. He said a 60-40 ratio of advertising would go toward funneling more visitors to St. Croix.
Accommodations Council president Peter Locke said the anemic annual 45 percent occupancy rate on St. Croix showed that more money had to be committed to marketing the Big Island. Locke said 80 percent occupancy was the target, although according to Arthur Mayer, manager of the CCormorant Beach Resort, most hotels are viable at 60 percent.
For fiscal year 2000, Jackson said, Tourism had approximately $8 million available to market the territory. He said the number probably wouldn’t get much larger next year considering the government’s financial situation.
"Of course, I’d like to have a $12 million or $15 million budget," said Jackson. "I have to be realistic. The funds aren’t there."
Hoteliers have consistently criticized the Turnbull and Schneider administrations for siphoning off a portion of the approximately $12 million a year collected in hotel occupancy taxes — which are supposed to be used to market the territory — for other uses.
Locke said the Turnbull administration was overlooking the $3 billion generated by the tourism industry each year. He called the yearly $6 million to $7 million advertising budget "a joke" and suggested a $20 million effort would result in more tourists and subsequently more revenue for the government.
"The priority of the administration is to get tourists. What do you have? They are giving you scraps," Locke said to Jackson.

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