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HomeNewsArchivesCANCELLATIONS STRANGLING ST. CROIX HOTELS

CANCELLATIONS STRANGLING ST. CROIX HOTELS

Oct. 5, 2001 — The current emptiness of St. Croix hotels could extend into the height of the tourist season unless the government’s newly announced advertising plan and additional marketing efforts are successful, the island's hotel association president says.
Last week, there were 148 hotel guests staying in St. Croix’s approximately 1,000 rooms, according to Wendell Snider, St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association president and general manager of the Hibiscus Beach Resort. That number improved only slightly this week, he said, almost a month after the terrorist attacks on the mainland.
"We didn’t have enough to fill the Divi [Carina Bay Resort]," he said. "The short-term forecast is very grim."
The Divi, meanwhile, is reporting that only 10 percent of its 150 rooms are occupied, and for that reason it has laid off 20 employees.
Considering the effect the attacks had on air travel, Snider said, it was inevitable that the remainder of September and October would be understandably slow locally. September is traditionally a quiet month anyway because it is the height of hurricane season.
A bigger concern to hoteliers now, Snider said, are the months to come that make up the bulk of their business. Snider said most hotels -– and other tourism-related businesses -– earn their profits in December, January, February and March.
"Cancellations have basically wiped out October, November and December," he said.
At the Hibiscus Beach Resort, he said, staff schedules have been cut, but no one has been laid off. Current bookings are down 80 percent to 90 percent, he said.
He has only two rooms booked for Christmas — "and for the first half of January, nothing," Snider said. Hotels territorywide have lost 5,000 room nights, which translates into about $5 million, he said, and "we are in great danger of not having a season."
In an effort to avert such a disaster, the government announced plans Wednesday to launch a $6.5 million advertising and marketing campaign to promote tourism with a patriotic emphasis. The new campaign will be in addition to a $17 million expenditure on advertising and marketing this year, making for the largest advertising push in the territory's history, according to Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards.
Beginning on Oct. 22, TV viewers of CNN, the Weather Channel, the Travel Channel, ESPN and CNBC will see the most extensive V.I. marketing campaign ever, she said on Wednesday.
"This is a global crisis," Richards said Wednesday. But, she added, "If, in fact, the American traveler has decided to fly, we have a good chance of getting them here."
In Snider's view, "The Department of Tourism’s ad campaign, if anything, is going to work. We have to hope it does." But, he added, "The private sector has to build on it."
That may difficult, because the millions of dollars hotels traditionally use to promote their properties come from their income.
Another challenge will be what kind of fallout there will be if or when the United States retaliates for the terrorist attacks, Snider said. "We are at the mercy of timing," he said. "We all know when the shooting starts, things will stop again.
Whether some hotels and businesses on St. Croix can survive the coming months remains to be seen, he said.
"There are many hotels that won’t make it on 90 days existing cash flow," he said. "But there aren’t many choices."

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Oct. 5, 2001 -- The current emptiness of St. Croix hotels could extend into the height of the tourist season unless the government’s newly announced advertising plan and additional marketing efforts are successful, the island's hotel association president says.
Last week, there were 148 hotel guests staying in St. Croix’s approximately 1,000 rooms, according to Wendell Snider, St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association president and general manager of the Hibiscus Beach Resort. That number improved only slightly this week, he said, almost a month after the terrorist attacks on the mainland.
"We didn’t have enough to fill the Divi [Carina Bay Resort]," he said. "The short-term forecast is very grim."
The Divi, meanwhile, is reporting that only 10 percent of its 150 rooms are occupied, and for that reason it has laid off 20 employees.
Considering the effect the attacks had on air travel, Snider said, it was inevitable that the remainder of September and October would be understandably slow locally. September is traditionally a quiet month anyway because it is the height of hurricane season.
A bigger concern to hoteliers now, Snider said, are the months to come that make up the bulk of their business. Snider said most hotels -– and other tourism-related businesses -– earn their profits in December, January, February and March.
"Cancellations have basically wiped out October, November and December," he said.
At the Hibiscus Beach Resort, he said, staff schedules have been cut, but no one has been laid off. Current bookings are down 80 percent to 90 percent, he said.
He has only two rooms booked for Christmas -- "and for the first half of January, nothing," Snider said. Hotels territorywide have lost 5,000 room nights, which translates into about $5 million, he said, and "we are in great danger of not having a season."
In an effort to avert such a disaster, the government announced plans Wednesday to launch a $6.5 million advertising and marketing campaign to promote tourism with a patriotic emphasis. The new campaign will be in addition to a $17 million expenditure on advertising and marketing this year, making for the largest advertising push in the territory's history, according to Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards.
Beginning on Oct. 22, TV viewers of CNN, the Weather Channel, the Travel Channel, ESPN and CNBC will see the most extensive V.I. marketing campaign ever, she said on Wednesday.
"This is a global crisis," Richards said Wednesday. But, she added, "If, in fact, the American traveler has decided to fly, we have a good chance of getting them here."
In Snider's view, "The Department of Tourism’s ad campaign, if anything, is going to work. We have to hope it does." But, he added, "The private sector has to build on it."
That may difficult, because the millions of dollars hotels traditionally use to promote their properties come from their income.
Another challenge will be what kind of fallout there will be if or when the United States retaliates for the terrorist attacks, Snider said. "We are at the mercy of timing," he said. "We all know when the shooting starts, things will stop again.
Whether some hotels and businesses on St. Croix can survive the coming months remains to be seen, he said.
"There are many hotels that won’t make it on 90 days existing cash flow," he said. "But there aren’t many choices."