Feb. 18, 2004 – Hotel occupancy in the territory averaged 56.9 percent in calendar year 2003, according to statistics provided by the government's Bureau of Economic Research.
In real numbers, the hotels accommodated a total of 691,762 overnight guests last year, a release issued by Government House on Wednesday stated.
But that is good news, according to the release, because it represents an increase of about 6.3 percent from calendar year 2002.
Leisure travel in 2002 was strongly impacted by the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland.
The territory's 2003 air visitor arrivals totaled 618,703 for 2003, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2002, according to the BER.
Since the late 1980s, with the collapse of Pan American World Airways and Eastern Airlines, the impact of two devastating hurricanes, and the advent of ever-larger cruise ships, the majority of tourists visiting the Virgin Islands have been cruise passengers. And that sector remains strong, the bureau reported, with 2003 arrivals up 8 percent from the preceding year.
The territory received a total of 1,773,948 cruise visitors in 2003, up 2 percent over 2002, the bureau report said.
The overall total of visitor arrivals in the territory last year was 2,392,678, according to the BER, representing an increase of 2.4 percent over the 2002 total.
In the month of December, the most recent for which statistics are available, 218,695 cruise passengers and 63,221 air passengers arrived in the territory — representing increases of 9.6 percent in ship traffic and 3.9 percent in air travel over December 2002.
Broken down by district, December air arrivals were up by 4.1 percent for the St. Thomas-St. John district and up 2.9 percent for St. Croix over December 2002. The month's ship arrivals for St. Thomas-St. John were up 15.5 percent over December 2002. As for St. Croix, the release stated that "116 passengers visited St. Croix in December 2003." It was not clear whether this number included daytripping visitors traveling from St. Thomas by fast ferry.
According to the release, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said these latest BER statistics support his State of the Territory comment last month that "there were signs the economy is beginning to rebound and that indications also show that our tourism industry is poised for a record year."
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