Dec. 5, 2005 While there is usually a bit of a slow down in early January for two or three weeks, the winter season looks good for hotels, V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association President Beverly Nicholson said Monday.
The arrival of low-cost Spirit Airlines Dec. 15, the recent hurricane in Cancun and early snowstorms in the United States will all boost local hotel business, Nicholson said.
Spirit Airlines will fly to St. Thomas and connects to a variety of cities through Fort Lauderdale.
"Any time you have competition, it's healthy," Nicholson said.
Nicholson said that Spirit's low fares should enhance the last-minute market.
While Spirit's regular fares are a bit lower than other carriers, travelers can save big if they book when Spirit has a sale. For example, Monday Spirit announced a $59 one-way fare from Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas as well as $99 one-way fare from New York's LaGuardia Airport to St. Thomas with a connection in Fort Lauderdale. Although the sale had a Dec. 11 buy-by date, sale fares go fast, so savvy travelers have to act quickly.
Bolongo Bay Beach Club manager Richard Doumeng said that since many of Sprit's flights are from less congested airports like Fort Lauderdale, travelers will pick Spirit over airlines that fly out of larger airports.
"People are looking for easier airports," he said.
And he said that Spirit's flights from Detroit, connecting in Fort Lauderdale, will open up the Midwest market.
He said that Spirit's sales will help drive the last-minute market.
"The trend is toward more trips with shorter stays," he said, noting that Bolongo has repeat guests that return several times a year.
Doumeng said that the hurricane devastation in Cancun should also help increase the number of visitors who arrive this winter. However, he noted that Cancun is a lower-cost destination than St. Thomas, but he said the Cancun situation should have a ripple effect across the Caribbean with some of those visitors ending up in the Virgin Islands.
He said the early snowstorms across the states should also help convince people to head to a warmer climate like the Virgin Islands.
Additionally, he said that the weak U.S. dollar compared to the Euro should help convince European travelers to spend their money in the Virgin Islands.
St. Croix is also looking good.
"But people are booking later," Carringtons Inn owner Claudia Carrington said.
She said business has gotten better every year since they opened the bed and breakfast five years ago.
Shannon Burdge, manager at Carambola Beach Resort on St. Croix, also said that this winter season is shaping up to be better than last year.
"The economy in the states is still doing well and people have disposable income to take a vacation," he said.
He said that with parts of the mainland getting an early winter, people will want a warm-weather vacation.
"By January and February, people will be tired of it," he said.
Rik Blyth, manager at St. John's Caneel Bay Resort, said the resort doesn't get as many last-minute bookings as other hotels.
"For Christmas through Easter, people know they have to book ahead," he said.
Blyth said that except for the peak hurricane season months of September and October, the resort is busy year round.
He also said that people who had booked at high-end Cancun resorts are making reservations at Caneel.
And he said so far, this year has been better than last year.
"I'm hoping it snows a lot up north. If it snows, the phone starts ringing," he said.
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