July 11, 2005 March visitor arrivals across the territory were up 9.4 percent over those in March 2004, announced Gov. Charles Turnbull in a news release issued Friday.
According to Bureau of Economic Research statistics used by the governor, the total number of tourists rose to approximately 327,000 in March '05 from roughly 299,000 the previous March.
Territory-wide, air visitor arrivals were up 20.2 percent to 82,472, from 68,590 in March 2004.
Although 19 fewer ships called on the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2005, the number of cruise ship passengers arriving rose 6.2 percent to 244,794 from 230,497 the previous March.
Percentage-wise, St. Croix saw the most gain in air arrivals. The number went up 40.1 percent to 16,494, versus 11,771 in March 2004. In the St. Thomas/St. John district, the number rose 16.1 percent to 65,978 from 56,819 last March.
The number of cruise ship passengers visiting St. Thomas/St. John went up 6.1 percent to 233,505 from 230,497.
St. Croix had nine cruise ship calls with 133,791 people aboard. The previous March, only one cruise ship called, carrying 112 passengers.
Territory-wide, the hotel occupancy rate went up. This March, it stood at 75.2 percent compared to 67.6 the previous March. St. Thomas/St. John had an occupancy rate of 78 percent in March 2005. In March 2004, it stood at 71.8 percent. In St. Croix, the rate ran 66.3 percent, compared to 54.1 percent the previous March.
Guests in the St. Thomas/St. John district stayed an average of 4.1 nights in March '05. Last March, the number stood at 4.0. In St. Croix, the number of nights rose to 4.9 from 4.3 the previous March.
While March — as well as the entire winter — was good from a tourism standpoint, V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association President Beverly Nicholson said she is looking ahead.
"I suspect the onslaught of weather will have an impact," she said, referring to the early ramp-up of this year's hurricane season.
She said that while there are people who won't visit the Virgin Islands during the season's peak September and October months, a new offering from participating hotel association members may convince those who are on the fence.
Participating hotel association members are currently offering a $200 credit on air fare and a coupon book worth up to $500 in savings.
Nicholson said that September and October visitors can add to those incentives. They'll have their choice of a complimentary upgrade or breakfast. Additionally, they'll get a fifth night free.
And travel agents will get a $25 bonus on top of their regular commission for booking these hotels.
"It's a good strong offering in the marketplace," Nicholson said.
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