July 30, 2004 – More visitors arrived in the Virgin Islands in June of this year than in any previous June in the last 20 years, according to Lauritz Mills, director of the territory's Economic Research Bureau.
"Advertising pays and partnerships pay," Steve Bornn, the Tourism Department's marketing director, said in explanation.
Territorywide, the total number of June visitors 184,571 was up 30.5 percent from June of 2003, when there were 144,422, according to a release issued on Thursday.
Overall, air arrivals totaled 57,982, up 19.4 percent from 48,578 a year earlier.
On St. Croix, air arrivals were up by 32.1 percent, at 11,419 compared with 8,647 in June 2003.
Mills said an increase in the number of seats on airplanes flying to St. Croix accounted for the larger number of visitors. Caribbean Sun now makes numerous trips each day, and charter flights are bringing passengers from Denmark.
For the St. Thomas/St. John district, air arrivals totaled 46,509, an increase of 16.5 percent from the 39,931 who arrived in June 2003.
Cruise passenger arrivals in the St. Thomas-St. John district were up 36.4 percent at 126,643 in June compared with 92,844 a year earlier. There were 43 cruise ship calls, up from 37 in June 2003. No ships called on St. Croix in June of either year.
Territorywide, the hotel occupancy rate for June stood at 60.3 percent, up 3.1 percent over the previous June.
The research bureau estimated St. Croix's occupancy rate at 39.2 percent for this June, which would be a decrease from the 40.3 percent in June 2003. But Mills said the 2004 figure is under-represented because two large hotels did not report their occupancy rates. She declined to identify the properties.
For the St. Thomas-St. John district, June hotel occupancy was 66.7 percent, up from 62.3 percent a year earlier.
Mills said hotels are not consistent in the way they report their occupancy rates, particularly in the St. Thomas-St. John district, and that this ongoing problem skews the figures generated by the bureau. She said that the problem relates to a high turnover of the hotel personnel who gather the data.
Bornn said tourism is in a growth period. "For the first time in a very long time we don't see any bleak spot," he said. He said the rest of the summer looks strong and that North American travelers are choosing to visit the Virgin Islands over Europe because the dollar is on the weak side there.
Also, he said, the territory was helped by a summer promotion offering tourists a free sixth night on St. Thomas or St. Croix and a free seventh night on St. John, as well as other incentives.
One thing Bornn doesn't even want to hear about is hurricanes. "I pray about the H word," he said.
He said major properties sold out this month in the St. Thomas-St. John district and that St. Croix is in "decent shape."
John Derosa, general manager of the Hibiscus Beach Resort on St. Croix, said his hotel had an impressive 87 percent occupancy in June. "It's been incredible for the past year," he said.
When the Danish charters first starting arriving in the spring, he said, guests were occupying five rooms a week. Now, it's up to 10 or 12 a week. Additionally, he sees that travel from the U.S. Northeast is up. "We did a lot of marketing on our own and with the hotel association," he said.
Graeme Davis, who chairs the St. Thomas/St. John arm of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association, said the June numbers looked outstanding. "It's certainly showing the rebound, and the entire economy is looking good," he said.
Davis, who is general manager of the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John, said that property had a 91 percent occupancy rate in June.
While the August numbers so far look a little lower than last year, he said, many travelers wait until the last minute to book, "especially this time of year."
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