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HomeNewsArchivesJOINT VENTURE: CRUISE AWAY, RETURN FOR A STAY

JOINT VENTURE: CRUISE AWAY, RETURN FOR A STAY

An innovative tourism concept whose time appears to have come was launched Friday as hotel and cruise ship officials, once competitors, got together to announce their collaboration on a new venture called the Cruise Conversion Program.
The program aims to convert cruise ship passengers who visit for a day into future hotel guests who will stay for a number of nights. It's a joint effort of The West Indian Company Ltd. and the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association.
To promote the project, the new partners held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Welcome Center on the WICO docks Friday and invited all the tourism professionals they could think of so they could tell them all about it.
The Cruise Conversion Program will develop a computerized database from the information on the visitor cards. Utilizing the data, promotional materials such as announcements of special V.I. vacation offers will be sent out to target audiences.
St. Croix is included in the effort. The kiosk outside the Welcome Center, where the official ribbon was cut, features brochures on St. Croix accommodations and attractions, as well as St. Thomas and St. John offerings. There are plans to institute a similar information-gathering procedure on St. Croix at the Frederiksted pier.
Hotel Association president Richard Doumeng said the new venture couldn't have come about without the strong support of WICO chief executive officer Edward Thomas. "We have wanted to do something like this for a long time," Doumeng said, "but there were problems – for one thing, we didn't have a place to operate. But WICO made it happen."
Doumeng explained that Thomas has made the Welcome Center available to promote the program, along with three informational kiosks on the dock.
Cruise ships bring 1.6 million visitors to the island every year, Thomas said, and "to not approach these people and ask them to come back, you'd have to be foolish."
Judy Bonelli, longtime V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency employee now retired, has taken on the official greeting duties. "We have a card made up which visitors can fill out," she said. The passengers are asked to provide their mailing address and e-mail address, and to respond to the query, "Would you return to St. Thomas?" As an incentive to supply the information, each person who fills out a card gets entered in that month's "free vacation sweepstakes," for which the prize is a six day/five night vacation on St. Thomas.
"The association members are supplying the hotel rooms on a rotating basis," Doumeng said. "Right now, the guests will have to foot their own air fare, but Phase 2 of the program is to get the airlines to become partners and provide seats."
Thomas, Doumeng, WICO public relations officer Calvin Wheatley, hotel association executive director Beverly Nicholson, and Tourism Department assistant commissioner Monique Sibilly-Hodge all spoke with enthusiasm about the new venture. The partnership is like nothing else in the Caribbean, Doumeng said, adding that "in some countries, hotel and cruise ship interests are sworn enemies." Even in the Virgin Islands, they weren't all that friendly a decade or so ago.

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An innovative tourism concept whose time appears to have come was launched Friday as hotel and cruise ship officials, once competitors, got together to announce their collaboration on a new venture called the Cruise Conversion Program.
The program aims to convert cruise ship passengers who visit for a day into future hotel guests who will stay for a number of nights. It's a joint effort of The West Indian Company Ltd. and the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association.
To promote the project, the new partners held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Welcome Center on the WICO docks Friday and invited all the tourism professionals they could think of so they could tell them all about it.
The Cruise Conversion Program will develop a computerized database from the information on the visitor cards. Utilizing the data, promotional materials such as announcements of special V.I. vacation offers will be sent out to target audiences.
St. Croix is included in the effort. The kiosk outside the Welcome Center, where the official ribbon was cut, features brochures on St. Croix accommodations and attractions, as well as St. Thomas and St. John offerings. There are plans to institute a similar information-gathering procedure on St. Croix at the Frederiksted pier.
Hotel Association president Richard Doumeng said the new venture couldn't have come about without the strong support of WICO chief executive officer Edward Thomas. "We have wanted to do something like this for a long time," Doumeng said, "but there were problems – for one thing, we didn't have a place to operate. But WICO made it happen."
Doumeng explained that Thomas has made the Welcome Center available to promote the program, along with three informational kiosks on the dock.
Cruise ships bring 1.6 million visitors to the island every year, Thomas said, and "to not approach these people and ask them to come back, you'd have to be foolish."
Judy Bonelli, longtime V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency employee now retired, has taken on the official greeting duties. "We have a card made up which visitors can fill out," she said. The passengers are asked to provide their mailing address and e-mail address, and to respond to the query, "Would you return to St. Thomas?" As an incentive to supply the information, each person who fills out a card gets entered in that month's "free vacation sweepstakes," for which the prize is a six day/five night vacation on St. Thomas.
"The association members are supplying the hotel rooms on a rotating basis," Doumeng said. "Right now, the guests will have to foot their own air fare, but Phase 2 of the program is to get the airlines to become partners and provide seats."
Thomas, Doumeng, WICO public relations officer Calvin Wheatley, hotel association executive director Beverly Nicholson, and Tourism Department assistant commissioner Monique Sibilly-Hodge all spoke with enthusiasm about the new venture. The partnership is like nothing else in the Caribbean, Doumeng said, adding that "in some countries, hotel and cruise ship interests are sworn enemies." Even in the Virgin Islands, they weren't all that friendly a decade or so ago.