83.2 F
Cruz Bay
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Aug. 14, 2001 – Despite some economic belt-tightening on the mainland, St. John has had a very good summer season, hoteliers, restaurant owners and retailers report.
"We're just a little bit below last year," Brian Young, general manager at Caneel Bay Resort, said. Occupancy was nearly 80 percent for July, he said, just a hair below what the posh resort saw last year.
At the other end of the amenity spectrum, Maho Bay Camps recorded an occupancy rate around 50 percent for the entire summer. Resident manager Victor Nunnally said that was about the same as last summer. He said hard economic times on the mainland don't impact Maho as much as they do pricier resorts. Most Maho Bay summer visitors are middle-class families with incomes in the $30,000 to $60,000 range.
In the hope of boosting its occupancy rate, Maho tried a small marketing ploy that has paid off. Nunnally said that Maho now has signage at the Cyril E. King Airport, a move that results in four or five guests calling every day from the airport to book a tent.
While Caneel Bay patrons tend to be well heeled, they are watching their dollars all the same. Young said that guests who willing spend what it takes for the room will pinch on spending at the resort gift shop and on things like wine. For example, "Instead of an $80 bottle of wine, they'll buy one for $40 or just a couple of glasses," he said.
Visitors from all walks of economic life have been spending plenty at St. John shops.
"It's been unusually good and exceeds our expectations," Kate Campbell, owner of the Pink Papaya gift shop in Cruz Bay, said. She pegged the summer success on day visitors from St. Thomas as well as people staying at the Westin Resort for conventions and other group events.
At the Bougainvillea boutiques at the Westin and in Mongoose Junction, sales have been strong. Manager Sana Rogers gave some credit for that to the Italians and South Americans who flock to St. John in August.
Italy just about closes down each August while the residents head elsewhere for vacation, she said. And it's winter in the southernmost parts of South America, which encourages residents to head north to a warmer climate. "It's like a little mini-season in the middle of summer," Rogers said as about 20 people were crowding her Mongoose Junction shop.
Visitors dropping big bucks at island shops also spend for meals, but locals also help the summer bottom line. "The locals wait for it to slow down," Chris Meyer, who owns the Lime Inn, said. She said she also sees lots of families who spend a week or two at one of the island's vacation villas coming in for lunch and dinner.
In Coral Bay, business has been a bit better than last summer at Skinny Legs Bar and Restaurant, owner Doug Sica said. The bulk of his business comes from visiting families who tell him they picked St. John for their vacation because it's cheaper to rent a house on the island than it is at shore resorts on the mainland East Coast.
Plus, here "they can see their feet in the water," Sica added, referring to the fact that Atlantic Ocean water off the East Coast tends to be murky and cold.
Bob Shinners, who owns Low Key Watersports, said this summer and all summers are good for his business. He said visitors attracted by lower summer accommodations rates tend to be more active. "They do more diving and less shopping," he said.
Shinners, Campbell and Nunnally all pointed out that the territory escaped a major hurricane last year, which kept bad news out of the mainland papers and may have encouraged vacationers to give St. John a try.

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