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Hotel Occupancy Looking Good for Coming Months

Oct. 17, 2007 — The no-passport requirement, coupled with the territory's tourism promotions, is helping fill rooms over the next few months, hoteliers said Wednesday.
"The Tourism Department is really trying to help," said Richard Locke, manager at Club St. Croix and Colony Cove condominiums on St. Croix, as well as Sapphire Beach Resort and Point Pleasant Resort on St. Thomas. "They've been very aggressive doing promotions, and the whole department is working hard."
Big boosts came from the 90th-anniversary promotion, which has ended, and a Discover/American Express promotion that runs through Dec. 22, said Richard Doumeng, manager at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas. The key seemed to be "value-added" activities such as day sails, visits to attractions and tours.
"This year, there is real meat to it," he said.
For the first time, Doumeng said, citing the Discover/American Express St. Thomas offering, hoteliers across the territory and the Tourism Department were prepared when tour operators visited in May for a symposium. The territory needs to do more No Passport Required promotion, because misinformation is still out there, he said.
"I've been battling with CNN," he said. CNN and other media outlets continually fail to note that the U.S. Virgin Islands is exempt from the passport requirement when they report that a passport is now needed for trips to the Caribbean.
It is also important for all three islands to be promoted together, Doumeng said.
"We are so much stronger together than going about it separately," he said.
Locke agreed that the Discover/American Express promotion for St. Thomas and the airfare credit promotion for St. Croix are both raising projected occupancy rates.
"St. Croix is up 15 to 18 percent over the same time last year," he said, while St. Thomas properties will be up about 10 percent.
Bar and restaurants at Sapphire were closed for about a year, but began opening about two weeks ago. That has been a boon for business, Locke said.
"It's a lot easier to sell a property with a bar and a restaurant," he said.
Because the properties get many last-minute bookings, Locke said he couldn't predict what occupancy rates would actually run.
Lisa Hamilton, marketing manager at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel on St. Thomas, also gave credit to the 90th anniversary and Discover/American Express promotions.
"You leverage that with the no-passport requirement and you have a good recipe," she said.
However, high airfares over the Christmas holiday season are causing concern. They're running $1,200 to $1,400 round trip from such key markets as New York and Miami, Hamilton said. Even so, the hotel is about 80 percent booked for Christmas week, she said.
Vacationers are now tending to book at the last minute, Hamilton said. Previously, she said, most people booked three to six months before their vacation, but now it's 15 days to three months. It's not clear whether they're making their plans at the last minute or waiting to see what good deals are available.
The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas is also about 80 percent booked for Christmas, said Jenny Highlander, public relations manager. The next couple of months are on track thanks to an increased number of rooms, she said. Last year at this time, the hotel had 80 rooms available, but now it has 180 because the hotel opened an addition and others are refurbished.
The hotel aggressively promoted its new club-level rooms, Hamilton said.
"People are excited about them," she said.
Caneel Bay Resort on St. John is already booked up for Christmas, and the rest of December looks better than last year, said Manager Nikolay Hotze.
"There's always something to be said when there are no major hurricanes that impact the area," he said. Even if an island isn't hit but others are, it hurts the entire region, he said.
Robin Clair, manager at the four-unit Estate Zootenvaal on St. John, said the property is booked up from mid-November all the way through April.
"There are a lot of new guests, but a lot come every year," she said.
One woman is bringing her folding kayak for use in nearby Hurricane Hole, and she's staying for four weeks as a treat for her 60th birthday, Clair said.
Claudia Carrington, owner of Carringtons Inn on St. Croix, said she only has one room left out of five for Christmas week, but November through early December is about 50 percent booked.
"We've got a big gap in the middle of December," she said, noting that President's Day week in February is already looking good.
One woman said she was coming for the February Jump Up, so she wanted to make sure she booked when that event was on, Carrington said. She said she hoped all the Tourism Department's efforts — such as the recent V.I. Day at Yankee Stadium — help the tourism picture.
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Oct. 17, 2007 -- The no-passport requirement, coupled with the territory's tourism promotions, is helping fill rooms over the next few months, hoteliers said Wednesday.
"The Tourism Department is really trying to help," said Richard Locke, manager at Club St. Croix and Colony Cove condominiums on St. Croix, as well as Sapphire Beach Resort and Point Pleasant Resort on St. Thomas. "They've been very aggressive doing promotions, and the whole department is working hard."
Big boosts came from the 90th-anniversary promotion, which has ended, and a Discover/American Express promotion that runs through Dec. 22, said Richard Doumeng, manager at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas. The key seemed to be "value-added" activities such as day sails, visits to attractions and tours.
"This year, there is real meat to it," he said.
For the first time, Doumeng said, citing the Discover/American Express St. Thomas offering, hoteliers across the territory and the Tourism Department were prepared when tour operators visited in May for a symposium. The territory needs to do more No Passport Required promotion, because misinformation is still out there, he said.
"I've been battling with CNN," he said. CNN and other media outlets continually fail to note that the U.S. Virgin Islands is exempt from the passport requirement when they report that a passport is now needed for trips to the Caribbean.
It is also important for all three islands to be promoted together, Doumeng said.
"We are so much stronger together than going about it separately," he said.
Locke agreed that the Discover/American Express promotion for St. Thomas and the airfare credit promotion for St. Croix are both raising projected occupancy rates.
"St. Croix is up 15 to 18 percent over the same time last year," he said, while St. Thomas properties will be up about 10 percent.
Bar and restaurants at Sapphire were closed for about a year, but began opening about two weeks ago. That has been a boon for business, Locke said.
"It's a lot easier to sell a property with a bar and a restaurant," he said.
Because the properties get many last-minute bookings, Locke said he couldn't predict what occupancy rates would actually run.
Lisa Hamilton, marketing manager at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel on St. Thomas, also gave credit to the 90th anniversary and Discover/American Express promotions.
"You leverage that with the no-passport requirement and you have a good recipe," she said.
However, high airfares over the Christmas holiday season are causing concern. They're running $1,200 to $1,400 round trip from such key markets as New York and Miami, Hamilton said. Even so, the hotel is about 80 percent booked for Christmas week, she said.
Vacationers are now tending to book at the last minute, Hamilton said. Previously, she said, most people booked three to six months before their vacation, but now it's 15 days to three months. It's not clear whether they're making their plans at the last minute or waiting to see what good deals are available.
The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas is also about 80 percent booked for Christmas, said Jenny Highlander, public relations manager. The next couple of months are on track thanks to an increased number of rooms, she said. Last year at this time, the hotel had 80 rooms available, but now it has 180 because the hotel opened an addition and others are refurbished.
The hotel aggressively promoted its new club-level rooms, Hamilton said.
"People are excited about them," she said.
Caneel Bay Resort on St. John is already booked up for Christmas, and the rest of December looks better than last year, said Manager Nikolay Hotze.
"There's always something to be said when there are no major hurricanes that impact the area," he said. Even if an island isn't hit but others are, it hurts the entire region, he said.
Robin Clair, manager at the four-unit Estate Zootenvaal on St. John, said the property is booked up from mid-November all the way through April.
"There are a lot of new guests, but a lot come every year," she said.
One woman is bringing her folding kayak for use in nearby Hurricane Hole, and she's staying for four weeks as a treat for her 60th birthday, Clair said.
Claudia Carrington, owner of Carringtons Inn on St. Croix, said she only has one room left out of five for Christmas week, but November through early December is about 50 percent booked.
"We've got a big gap in the middle of December," she said, noting that President's Day week in February is already looking good.
One woman said she was coming for the February Jump Up, so she wanted to make sure she booked when that event was on, Carrington said. She said she hoped all the Tourism Department's efforts -- such as the recent V.I. Day at Yankee Stadium -- help the tourism picture.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.