Home News Local news TOUR OPERATOR DROPS 1 OF 2 WEEKLY FLIGHTS

TOUR OPERATOR DROPS 1 OF 2 WEEKLY FLIGHTS

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A Chicago-based tour operator has canceled one of the two weekly flights to St. Thomas that had been scheduled for the winter season. The reduced airlift represents a loss of some $672,000 in room bookings and $55,000 in room taxes, according to estimates by the president of the local hotel association.
Apple Vacations was the only tour operator that added seats to its weekly service to the territory last year, Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association, said. Now it has cut back again, canceling the 16 weeks of Wednesday flights while keep those on Sundays. The Wednesday charters typically carried guests who would occupy 50 to 60 hotel rooms, he said.
Doumeng said he was dismayed to learn that Apple, which he described as the territory's top and longest-standing charter partner from Chicago, decided it was "economically disastrous" to send charters to the island twice a week this winter.
The stance of the hotel association, he told the V.I. Independent, is that "if Apple Vacations can't find it economically feasible to fly here, that is something to worry about." He said the cancellation "should send us a message that we are not supporting these people the way they need to be supported."
The Virgin Islands has been without a Tourism Department commissioner for more than year. Two nominees have fallen by the wayside in controversial circumstances, and the government is behind in its obligations to share with travel partners such as tour operators and airlines in the costs of marketing the territory.
Tourism has been allocated $7 million for advertising in the fiscal year 2000 budget, the same as last year. Industry experts have long pointed out that direct competitors in the region spend multiples of that amount.
Tourism officials announced at a government pre-millennium kickoff celebration at the Fort Frederik Museum Friday evening, Dec. 10, that the department has produced a video news release promoting the Millennium New Year's Eve celebration planned at Point Udall, the easternmost point of United States soil. The partying is being touted as a way to greet the year 2000 an hour before it gets to New York's Times Square. Manny Centeno of the V.I. Film Promotion Office said the video will be available to television networks via satellite Dec. 28.

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