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HomeNewsArchivesMIXED SEASON SEEMS TO BE ENDING ON AN UPSWING

MIXED SEASON SEEMS TO BE ENDING ON AN UPSWING

Assessments of the 2000 winter season range from "fantastic" to "on-target" to "unpredictable" to disappointing, but a sampling of local merchants and hospitality industry professionals indicates a strong upswing from a weak December.
The usual healthy holiday jump start was affected by the Y2K jitters. Yet, merchants who were crying the blues over the lackluster Christmas season appear happier today. And although in some quarters the season didn't bring the figures anticipated, the overall picture indicates a healthy boost in government tax revenues.
On Main Street, A.H. Riise vice president Sebastiano Paiewonsky said the company's retail divisions all were strong, despite a soft January. What's more, he said, cruise ship passengers are spending. "I have never been a person who believed cruise ship passengers are inferior spenders," he said, noting that those aboard any ship range from mid- to high-end consumers. However, he noted, "We have much more competition now from the shipboard stores and the other islands."
To remain competitive, the territory must continually improve its tourism product, Paiewonsky said. He said this season's volume of overnight visitors was disappointing, citing high air fares. But, he added, "every cruise ship passenger is a potential overnight visitor."
Diamonds International marketing manager Patti Hoffman said the season was "right on target" from projections. The store has "no complaints," she added.
At Cardow Jewelers, stores director Bill Christie said, "So far, we've been pleased with the sales – it's been consistent with what we expected." He added, "Although sales traditionally decline in April, we are hopeful of a good summer season, because we anticipate three additional ships this summer."
Both of the Pusser's outlets on St. Thomas have done well. Betsy Woodward, manager of the Pusser's Closeout Store in Havensight, said, "Sales are up about 10 percent over last year – it's the best year we've had since 1997." At the Main Street store, manager Ilma Bukle said March far surpassed January and February, but the season hasn't been even. "It's been unpredictable," she said.
Several merchants said the number of cruise ships calling was not a good sales indicator. But at the Kmart store in Lockhart Gardens, the cruise ship business was "stronger than expected," according to manager Steve Todd. Passengers and crews account for about 25 percent of the store's business, he said, and "we showed about a 5 percent to 10 percent increase this season." The store offers 10 percent discounts to ship crew members.
At American Yacht Harbor, Corinne Van Renssalaer of Color of Joy has had an uneven season. "December and January were disasters," she said, "but February got us back on our feet, and March picked up."
In Frenchtown, Ted Luscz, owner of Hook, Line & Sinker, said the restaurant had a "great season." However, he said, tourists are only partly responsible. "It's our strong local following that's kept us going," he said.
Liz Buckalew of the Banana Tree Grille at Bluebeard's Castle assessed the season as "fantastic – much better than expected." She added, "We took a dip at New Year's, but it's been uphill since." With locals and tourists contributing to the restaurant's success, she said, "I'm looking forward to a good April and May."
At Atlantis Submarine, sales manager Achielle Barbel also termed the season "fantastic." The visitor attraction has been "doing record numbers," he said, "a lot better than we expected."
While the diving attractions did well, those affected by the surface of the sea faced problems. Judy Reeve, vice president of Cruise Ship Excursions, owner of the Kon Tiki and Island Girl, said, "This is the worst weather we have had in 25 years — the sea swells, the rain, the high winds."
For example, Reeve said, the company "had to cancel our Trunk Bay St. John tours both last Tuesday and Wednesday" because snorkeling wasn't possible in the sea swells, and "we lost a thousand people between the two days." The tour counts have been down, too, she said, even though there have been more ships. "The season certainly wasn't what we expected," she said.
Small hotel operations also reported ups and downs. In Frenchtown, the Admiral's Inn did not fare well. "It's the airfares," co-owner Ann Borns said, citing ever-increasing ticket prices between the mainland and the territory. She and her husband, Hal, "were 30 percent off — not even close" in their projections for the season, she said.
But both Bolongo Bay Beach Club and the Magens Point Resort Hotel reported good seasons. Bolongo's Colleen Doumeng said the resort had a "real strong winter season." Magens Point sales manager David Long, saying "This was my best season since 1993," credited Internet advertising for a lot of the hotel's success.
Chris Sawyer, owner of Chris Sawyer Diving Center, smiling ear to ear, said the season was great for him. And he, too, attributed his success to on-line marketing. Today, "I get 40 percent of my reservations from the Internet," he said, whereas it used to be that 90 percent of his business was walk-in.
And the word from those who take the pulse of the pavement? In the words of one taxi driver, who declined to be named, "T'ings is looking up, man."

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Assessments of the 2000 winter season range from "fantastic" to "on-target" to "unpredictable" to disappointing, but a sampling of local merchants and hospitality industry professionals indicates a strong upswing from a weak December.
The usual healthy holiday jump start was affected by the Y2K jitters. Yet, merchants who were crying the blues over the lackluster Christmas season appear happier today. And although in some quarters the season didn't bring the figures anticipated, the overall picture indicates a healthy boost in government tax revenues.
On Main Street, A.H. Riise vice president Sebastiano Paiewonsky said the company's retail divisions all were strong, despite a soft January. What's more, he said, cruise ship passengers are spending. "I have never been a person who believed cruise ship passengers are inferior spenders," he said, noting that those aboard any ship range from mid- to high-end consumers. However, he noted, "We have much more competition now from the shipboard stores and the other islands."
To remain competitive, the territory must continually improve its tourism product, Paiewonsky said. He said this season's volume of overnight visitors was disappointing, citing high air fares. But, he added, "every cruise ship passenger is a potential overnight visitor."
Diamonds International marketing manager Patti Hoffman said the season was "right on target" from projections. The store has "no complaints," she added.
At Cardow Jewelers, stores director Bill Christie said, "So far, we've been pleased with the sales – it's been consistent with what we expected." He added, "Although sales traditionally decline in April, we are hopeful of a good summer season, because we anticipate three additional ships this summer."
Both of the Pusser's outlets on St. Thomas have done well. Betsy Woodward, manager of the Pusser's Closeout Store in Havensight, said, "Sales are up about 10 percent over last year – it's the best year we've had since 1997." At the Main Street store, manager Ilma Bukle said March far surpassed January and February, but the season hasn't been even. "It's been unpredictable," she said.
Several merchants said the number of cruise ships calling was not a good sales indicator. But at the Kmart store in Lockhart Gardens, the cruise ship business was "stronger than expected," according to manager Steve Todd. Passengers and crews account for about 25 percent of the store's business, he said, and "we showed about a 5 percent to 10 percent increase this season." The store offers 10 percent discounts to ship crew members.
At American Yacht Harbor, Corinne Van Renssalaer of Color of Joy has had an uneven season. "December and January were disasters," she said, "but February got us back on our feet, and March picked up."
In Frenchtown, Ted Luscz, owner of Hook, Line & Sinker, said the restaurant had a "great season." However, he said, tourists are only partly responsible. "It's our strong local following that's kept us going," he said.
Liz Buckalew of the Banana Tree Grille at Bluebeard's Castle assessed the season as "fantastic – much better than expected." She added, "We took a dip at New Year's, but it's been uphill since." With locals and tourists contributing to the restaurant's success, she said, "I'm looking forward to a good April and May."
At Atlantis Submarine, sales manager Achielle Barbel also termed the season "fantastic." The visitor attraction has been "doing record numbers," he said, "a lot better than we expected."
While the diving attractions did well, those affected by the surface of the sea faced problems. Judy Reeve, vice president of Cruise Ship Excursions, owner of the Kon Tiki and Island Girl, said, "This is the worst weather we have had in 25 years -- the sea swells, the rain, the high winds."
For example, Reeve said, the company "had to cancel our Trunk Bay St. John tours both last Tuesday and Wednesday" because snorkeling wasn't possible in the sea swells, and "we lost a thousand people between the two days." The tour counts have been down, too, she said, even though there have been more ships. "The season certainly wasn't what we expected," she said.
Small hotel operations also reported ups and downs. In Frenchtown, the Admiral's Inn did not fare well. "It's the airfares," co-owner Ann Borns said, citing ever-increasing ticket prices between the mainland and the territory. She and her husband, Hal, "were 30 percent off -- not even close" in their projections for the season, she said.
But both Bolongo Bay Beach Club and the Magens Point Resort Hotel reported good seasons. Bolongo's Colleen Doumeng said the resort had a "real strong winter season." Magens Point sales manager David Long, saying "This was my best season since 1993," credited Internet advertising for a lot of the hotel's success.
Chris Sawyer, owner of Chris Sawyer Diving Center, smiling ear to ear, said the season was great for him. And he, too, attributed his success to on-line marketing. Today, "I get 40 percent of my reservations from the Internet," he said, whereas it used to be that 90 percent of his business was walk-in.
And the word from those who take the pulse of the pavement? In the words of one taxi driver, who declined to be named, "T'ings is looking up, man."