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HOTELIERS NOT HOPEFUL FOR REMAINDER OF SEASON

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While the occupancy rate at St. Croix’s hotels is high for the upcoming millennium weekend, the presidents of St. Croix’s two hotel organizations aren’t optimistic about the next few months.
"I think most (hotels), in general, for the next week look real good," said Peter Ross, president of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association and owner of the King’s Alley Hotel. "Beyond that it’s not real positive."
Ross said occupancy rates for the week bracketed by Christmas and the New Year are "a little better" than the average 90 percent for that time of year. The remainder of the season, however, is "abnormally" low, he said.
St. Croix Accommodations Council President Peter Locke, who also owns Chenay Bay Resort, concurred with Ross on the situation.
Locke said that while his resort wasn’t full during Christmas he’s booked up between Tuesday and the new year.
"But for January and February, who knows?" he said.
Both hoteliers cited two reasons for the slow holiday season.
The first is travelers’ worries about the millennium bug and the second is the V.I. government’s tourism advertising effort.
Ross said many potential travelers are opting to remain home for the new year fearing disruption caused by computer malfunctions due to the new century and the threat of terrorist acts. He said that once 2000 settles in there could be a resurgence in travel.
"A lot of it is hype," Ross said. "We’re hoping that after the first of the year, and with the government’s advertising, we’ll catch some of those vacationers."
The Department of Tourism recently spent $500,000 for a print ad campaign that will begin in January. The first ads will appear in the Jan. 3 edition of USA Today. Subsequent ads will be placed in People Magazine and Parade, a Sunday magazine newspaper insert that is read by more than 18 million people, according to Tourism.
While the advertising will help, Locke said it’s coming somewhat late into the season. Rather, he said, the government should have gotten the word out that the territory was open for business soon after Hurricane Lenny hit on Nov. 17.
"We wanted to do it (advertising) in December," Locke said.
"January is getting a little late."
Locke said that the members of the Accommodations Council own their respective properties and aren’t supported by a national or international chain. That makes the need for a stronger marketing campaign crucial, he said.
"They feel it," Locke said. "They don’t have the advertising budget and wholesalers. They are stretched thinly."

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