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NO SUMMER DOLDRUMS FOR HOTELS, RESTAURANTS

Could it be Christmas in July? That's what some hoteliers are saying about the 2000 summer season.
Not all retailers would agree, but larger hotels and many restaurants are more than pleased with the steady influx of visitors, borne out by figures just released by the V.I. Bureau of Economic Research.
The year started off slowly with the Y2K scare, making hotel occupancy higher in July than January; but the entire summer has proven to be much better than last year.
"This is the best summer since 1989," said Beverly Nicholson, assistant executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association.
Ad blitz pays off
"It's a clear-cut example of advertising impact," Nicholson said. "In fact, there have been no layoffs." Normally, she said, the season would have started to die after Easter, but that didn't happen.
"It's just now beginning to taper off a little," she said.
Nicholson cited the radio and TV advertising campaign put in place right after Tourism Commissioner Rafael Jackson was nominated for the post in April, and the newspaper blitz in the Northeastern states earlier in the year. "The flights have been coming in full," she said.
The numbers back up that observation. Air arrivals in St. Thomas in 2000 are up 9.8 percent for the period from January to July over 1999, from 284,000 last year to 312,000 in 2000, according to the Bureau of Economic Research.
Cruise ship calls are 17.2 percent higher in 2000 than 1999. Hotel occupancy rates are not in for July yet, but figures show an increase of 7.3 percent in May over 1999, and a 6.6 percent increase for June.
Brooks Brown, manager of Tropic Tours, said this is the best summer since the 1980s when it was "really jamming."
She said June, July and August have seen heavy air arrivals, with many guests staying for seven days. "It's been a concerted effort on the part of wholesalers, hotels and airlines offering packages," she said, "a very successful effort."
Jackson still concerned about small hotels
The Tourism commissioner was enthusiastic about this summer. "We've taken the initiative, and we expect to see it continue," Jackson said. "Look at the figures."
But all is not sunshine, and Jackson knows it. "My major concern is the small hotels," he said.
Jackson said he is trying to help small hotels and guest houses that are not a part of major travel wholesalers' packages.
"They are not in the same position as the larger hotels, and I'm still talking to the airlines," he said. Airfares are very high, which is a definite deterrent, he said.
Hal Borns of Admirals Inn echoed Jackson's concern. He said Industrial Development Commission benefits and the deep discounting larger hotels can afford are "driving the small hotels right down."
Still, Frank Davis of Danish Chalet was pleased. "We had a real good June and July," Davis said. "We had one couple make their 17th annual visit." Paul Doumeng of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort also reported a good summer.
Somewhere in between was Barbara Cooper of Island View Guest House, who said, "Everything is last-minute in the summer — we'd hoped for more, but it's been fair."
Beverly Petrus, Tourism marketing director, said the $500,000 Gov. Charles W. Turnbull allotted to the department earlier this year had been instrumental in getting things rolling. With help from the hotel association, Tourism officials used the funds for the January newspaper blitz, targeting consumer and trade publications in the Northeast as well as Parade magazine, the most popular Sunday magazine nationwide.
Monique Sibilly-Hodge, assistant Tourism commissioner, said that after the newspaper advertising, "We followed up with the TV and radio the third week Jackson was aboard." She said, "The 800-number calls have tripled after the TV ads, and that's one thing we can use to measure the impact of the campaign."
Gangbusters for Marriott, marriages and more
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel reported that its July has been better than February, normally the best month, and that the hotel's occupancy is up about 85 percent. Nancy Schneider at the Renaissance Grand hotel couldn't put up those figures, but she said the summer had been very good.
"Gangbusters," said Norma Kennedy of Weddings in Paradise at Frenchman's Reef. "This is the best season in eight years."
She said the upswing in cruise ship arrivals accounts for a large part of her business. "We have a little gazebo here at the hotel, which people prefer rather than going to a beach," she said. Kennedy confirmed the TV and radio advertising campaign has spurred things on for her and for the hotel.
On the restaurant side, Craig Darash of Craig and Sally's restaurant in Frenchtown reported an excellent summer and said, "It's the advertising, and the three R's: the Reef, the Renaissance and the Ritz-Carlton — in short, the Marriott reservation system."
Banana Tree Grille's Liz Buckalew said, "We were hoping the summer would follow an outstanding winter, and it did."
Other voices on the restaurant scene were equally upbeat. Ted Luscz of Hook, Line and Sinker said, "It's definitely better than last year. There's more tourists at night, and always more locals in the day." All in all, Luscz said he's pleased.
On the waterfront, Green House Manager Bill Luppino said things were "hot — a lot better than we'd expected."
And the island's newest live music venue in Havensight reported "great turnouts." Steven Shore, owner of the Offshore Bar and Cybercafe, started the café in March. "If business so far is an indication, I'm looking forward to a great winter season," he said.
Exiled on Main Street
But on Main Street and Havensight, merchants weren't jumping up. The majority of retailers reported a summer just slightly better than anticipated. All those hotel guests simply aren't spending there as much as room occupancies would suggest.
Darr Conradson, Little Switzerland vice-president of marketing, said, "The fabric of the island has changed. People aren't buying like they used to."
He said June was so-so, while July figures show a "strong up-curve, not huge, but an improvement."
Things are going better than anticipated on the water. Laura Jackson of Coki Beach Dive Center said business is good. "Nobody's really complaining out here," she said, referring to the small businesses dotting the beach. "About 60 percent of our business comes from word of mouth," she said. "The tourists get referred by the locals."
Chris Sawyer of the Chris Sawyer Dive Center said he's had a "good summer, but not better than winter. But better than last summer, and it's still going on."
A lot seems to have been done with a little, as the limited budget the governor allotted to Tourism has largely paid off.
The hotel association's Nicholson articulated everyone's hope: "We've got to encourage the governor to keep it up!"

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Could it be Christmas in July? That's what some hoteliers are saying about the 2000 summer season.
Not all retailers would agree, but larger hotels and many restaurants are more than pleased with the steady influx of visitors, borne out by figures just released by the V.I. Bureau of Economic Research.
The year started off slowly with the Y2K scare, making hotel occupancy higher in July than January; but the entire summer has proven to be much better than last year.
"This is the best summer since 1989," said Beverly Nicholson, assistant executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association.
Ad blitz pays off
"It's a clear-cut example of advertising impact," Nicholson said. "In fact, there have been no layoffs." Normally, she said, the season would have started to die after Easter, but that didn't happen.
"It's just now beginning to taper off a little," she said.
Nicholson cited the radio and TV advertising campaign put in place right after Tourism Commissioner Rafael Jackson was nominated for the post in April, and the newspaper blitz in the Northeastern states earlier in the year. "The flights have been coming in full," she said.
The numbers back up that observation. Air arrivals in St. Thomas in 2000 are up 9.8 percent for the period from January to July over 1999, from 284,000 last year to 312,000 in 2000, according to the Bureau of Economic Research.
Cruise ship calls are 17.2 percent higher in 2000 than 1999. Hotel occupancy rates are not in for July yet, but figures show an increase of 7.3 percent in May over 1999, and a 6.6 percent increase for June.
Brooks Brown, manager of Tropic Tours, said this is the best summer since the 1980s when it was "really jamming."
She said June, July and August have seen heavy air arrivals, with many guests staying for seven days. "It's been a concerted effort on the part of wholesalers, hotels and airlines offering packages," she said, "a very successful effort."
Jackson still concerned about small hotels
The Tourism commissioner was enthusiastic about this summer. "We've taken the initiative, and we expect to see it continue," Jackson said. "Look at the figures."
But all is not sunshine, and Jackson knows it. "My major concern is the small hotels," he said.
Jackson said he is trying to help small hotels and guest houses that are not a part of major travel wholesalers' packages.
"They are not in the same position as the larger hotels, and I'm still talking to the airlines," he said. Airfares are very high, which is a definite deterrent, he said.
Hal Borns of Admirals Inn echoed Jackson's concern. He said Industrial Development Commission benefits and the deep discounting larger hotels can afford are "driving the small hotels right down."
Still, Frank Davis of Danish Chalet was pleased. "We had a real good June and July," Davis said. "We had one couple make their 17th annual visit." Paul Doumeng of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort also reported a good summer.
Somewhere in between was Barbara Cooper of Island View Guest House, who said, "Everything is last-minute in the summer -- we'd hoped for more, but it's been fair."
Beverly Petrus, Tourism marketing director, said the $500,000 Gov. Charles W. Turnbull allotted to the department earlier this year had been instrumental in getting things rolling. With help from the hotel association, Tourism officials used the funds for the January newspaper blitz, targeting consumer and trade publications in the Northeast as well as Parade magazine, the most popular Sunday magazine nationwide.
Monique Sibilly-Hodge, assistant Tourism commissioner, said that after the newspaper advertising, "We followed up with the TV and radio the third week Jackson was aboard." She said, "The 800-number calls have tripled after the TV ads, and that's one thing we can use to measure the impact of the campaign."
Gangbusters for Marriott, marriages and more
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel reported that its July has been better than February, normally the best month, and that the hotel's occupancy is up about 85 percent. Nancy Schneider at the Renaissance Grand hotel couldn't put up those figures, but she said the summer had been very good.
"Gangbusters," said Norma Kennedy of Weddings in Paradise at Frenchman's Reef. "This is the best season in eight years."
She said the upswing in cruise ship arrivals accounts for a large part of her business. "We have a little gazebo here at the hotel, which people prefer rather than going to a beach," she said. Kennedy confirmed the TV and radio advertising campaign has spurred things on for her and for the hotel.
On the restaurant side, Craig Darash of Craig and Sally's restaurant in Frenchtown reported an excellent summer and said, "It's the advertising, and the three R's: the Reef, the Renaissance and the Ritz-Carlton -- in short, the Marriott reservation system."
Banana Tree Grille's Liz Buckalew said, "We were hoping the summer would follow an outstanding winter, and it did."
Other voices on the restaurant scene were equally upbeat. Ted Luscz of Hook, Line and Sinker said, "It's definitely better than last year. There's more tourists at night, and always more locals in the day." All in all, Luscz said he's pleased.
On the waterfront, Green House Manager Bill Luppino said things were "hot -- a lot better than we'd expected."
And the island's newest live music venue in Havensight reported "great turnouts." Steven Shore, owner of the Offshore Bar and Cybercafe, started the café in March. "If business so far is an indication, I'm looking forward to a great winter season," he said.
Exiled on Main Street
But on Main Street and Havensight, merchants weren't jumping up. The majority of retailers reported a summer just slightly better than anticipated. All those hotel guests simply aren't spending there as much as room occupancies would suggest.
Darr Conradson, Little Switzerland vice-president of marketing, said, "The fabric of the island has changed. People aren't buying like they used to."
He said June was so-so, while July figures show a "strong up-curve, not huge, but an improvement."
Things are going better than anticipated on the water. Laura Jackson of Coki Beach Dive Center said business is good. "Nobody's really complaining out here," she said, referring to the small businesses dotting the beach. "About 60 percent of our business comes from word of mouth," she said. "The tourists get referred by the locals."
Chris Sawyer of the Chris Sawyer Dive Center said he's had a "good summer, but not better than winter. But better than last summer, and it's still going on."
A lot seems to have been done with a little, as the limited budget the governor allotted to Tourism has largely paid off.
The hotel association's Nicholson articulated everyone's hope: "We've got to encourage the governor to keep it up!"