April 11, 2006 – St. Croix tourism showed a big improvement in 2005, while St. Thomas and St. John saw mixed results, Gov. Charles Turnbull said in a news release issued this week.
However, many people in the tourism industry are focusing on what's happening right now and looking ahead, not concentrating on last year's tabulations.
"It's very strong now and through the end of May," V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association President Beverly Nicholson said Tuesday of the St. Thomas and St. John end of things.
She said that St. Croix was not doing quite as well, but things looked strong overall.
Nicholson is also looking ahead to the fall. She said a number of properties will take rooms out of service for renovations, which will improve the product for next winter's season.
Steve Bornn, the Tourism Department's marketing director, said the Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, which connects to other mainland cities, has done its job.
"Their job was to stabilize and create competition," he said. The airline began flying to St. Thomas in December 2005.
Bornn said that while Spirit does occasionally offer its well-known inexpensive airfares, those fares to St. Thomas are very difficult to get. He said passengers must book as soon as they see them because they sell out quickly.
Bornn said that fares on other airlines that fly to the territory have come down.
He said that the tourism picture for the Virgin Islands, as well as the entire Caribbean, looks bright.
"The cash registers speak for themselves," he said.
The governor said a report by the Economic Research Bureau indicated that both air and cruise passenger arrivals were up on St. Croix in 2005.
Air arrivals were up 14.8 percent over 2004, with cruise passenger arrivals up 118.2 percent.
St. Croix received 151,773 air visitors in 2005 compared to 132,237 in 2004.
"The Delta flight has helped overall," Nicholson said, referring to the flight from Atlanta that began arriving twice a week on St. Croix last March.
She said that Divi Carina Bay Hotel on St. Croix specifically reported improvements over the previous reporting year, which ended September 2005.
Nicholson said that workers imported for a Hovensa job accounted for some of the improvement, but the number of tourists also improved.
"I think we're on an upward swing. We're certainly not where we want it to be, but the pendulum is going in the right direction," she said.
The number of cruise ship passengers arriving on St. Croix more than doubled in 2005 over the previous year. The island saw 54,502 cruise ship passengers arrive in 2005 compared to 24,983 in 2004.
The St. Thomas/St. John District saw a 3.6 percent increase in air visitors, but a 2.6 percent drop in cruise ship passengers.
Bornn said it was hard to say why the cruise ship numbers dropped for St. Thomas/St. John.
In 2005, 545,260 people arrived on St. Thomas by air compared to 526,400 in 2004. A total of 1.91 million people came on cruise ships in 2005 versus 1.96 million in 2004.
Last year a total of 2.6 million people visited the territory — a drop of 0.5 percent over the previous year.
Air visitation was up, with a 5.8 percent growth over the 658,637 people who visited in 2004.
The number of guests staying in the territory's hotels also rose by 2.4 percent in 2005. Last year, a total of 689,841 people stayed in V.I. hotels compared to 673,420 in 2004.
The number of cruise ship passengers across the territory declined by 2.7 percent, with 1.91 million people arriving by ship in 2005. In 2004, the number stood at 1.96 million.
The governor also released December 2005 statistics. In December, territorywide visitation dropped by 10 percent. Air arrivals were up by 11 percent, and cruise ship visitor arrivals down by 15.5 percent.
A total of 271,649 people visited the territory in December 2005 compared to 301,974 the previous December.
The decline was due to the drop in the number of cruise ship passengers. It fell to 202,085 territorywide, compared to 239,292 the previous December.
The number of cruise ship calls fell to 93 in December 2005 versus 118 in December 2005.
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