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September Slower than Usual, Hoteliers Say

Sept. 10, 2008 — "Dismal" is a good word to describe this September when it comes to the territory's tourism industry, several hoteliers said: Once the long Labor Day weekend was over, the number of visitors fell off dramatically.
"September is 50 percent off from last year," said Richard Doumeng, manager at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.
August was better at Bolongo — down only 15 to 20 percent from the same month last year.
This has been Bolongo's worst fall since 2001, the year terrorists attacked the United States, Doumeng said.
"November '08 looks similar to November '01," he said.
At Caneel Bay Resort on St. John, occupancy has dropped to about 18 percent after running about 85-percent full on Labor Day, down just 1 percentage point from the same time last year, said Manager Nikolay Hotze. However, Caneel has an all-inclusive plan for this September to bring guests into the resort.
Rates start at $595 a night per couple, and include three meals with wine or "poured beverages," afternoon tea, tips on food and beverage services, airport transfers, 8 percent hotel tax and 10 percent service charge. During the summer, the least-expensive room ran $395, with none of the extras included in the September package.
Carringtons Inn, a five-room bed and breakfast on St. Croix, has one guest. While owner Roger Carrington views any September guests as a bonus, unless at least three rooms are filled it costs him money because the electric bill is so high. It's now running more than $2,000 a month, which does not include the recent 19-percent increase.
"I might as well pull the (circuit) breaker and go to the beach," he said.
Raising prices is not on the horizon because guest won't pay more, Carrington said.
There are numerous reasons why September is falling flat, but several people said the top of the list includes the poor state of the U.S. economy coupled with the shortage of air lift to the territory.
In addition, the recent rash of hurricanes parading across the Atlantic and plowing through Caribbean islands on their way to the mainland hasn't helped.
"They look at the TV, see storms in the Caribbean and don't want to take a chance," said Vicki Locke, marketing manager for the Buccaneer Hotel. Many travelers face geographic challenges when it comes to the location of each island so they hear Caribbean and think the whole region has been hit, she said.
While the number of last-minute bookings continues to increase, they're especially prevalent in the slow fall season because people look for last-minute deals. When they hear about the hurricanes they don't book, Locke said.
Hotze agreed, noting that as soon as the parade of hurricanes dropped off, last-minute booking picked up.
He and Locke both said fall bookings also tend to be slower during election years.
Vacation Vistas owner Lisa Durgin, who manages 11 vacation villas on St. John, isn't seeing the same drop off. In fact, she said business is 75 percent better than last September. Guests booked a total of five weeks in her 11 villas during September, she said.
The fall season continues to improve since Hurricane Katrina brought the annual hurricane issue into the minds of many would-be travelers. After Katrina, the devastation in New Orleans dominated TV coverage for months.
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Sept. 10, 2008 -- "Dismal" is a good word to describe this September when it comes to the territory's tourism industry, several hoteliers said: Once the long Labor Day weekend was over, the number of visitors fell off dramatically.
"September is 50 percent off from last year," said Richard Doumeng, manager at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.
August was better at Bolongo -- down only 15 to 20 percent from the same month last year.
This has been Bolongo's worst fall since 2001, the year terrorists attacked the United States, Doumeng said.
"November '08 looks similar to November '01," he said.
At Caneel Bay Resort on St. John, occupancy has dropped to about 18 percent after running about 85-percent full on Labor Day, down just 1 percentage point from the same time last year, said Manager Nikolay Hotze. However, Caneel has an all-inclusive plan for this September to bring guests into the resort.
Rates start at $595 a night per couple, and include three meals with wine or "poured beverages," afternoon tea, tips on food and beverage services, airport transfers, 8 percent hotel tax and 10 percent service charge. During the summer, the least-expensive room ran $395, with none of the extras included in the September package.
Carringtons Inn, a five-room bed and breakfast on St. Croix, has one guest. While owner Roger Carrington views any September guests as a bonus, unless at least three rooms are filled it costs him money because the electric bill is so high. It's now running more than $2,000 a month, which does not include the recent 19-percent increase.
"I might as well pull the (circuit) breaker and go to the beach," he said.
Raising prices is not on the horizon because guest won't pay more, Carrington said.
There are numerous reasons why September is falling flat, but several people said the top of the list includes the poor state of the U.S. economy coupled with the shortage of air lift to the territory.
In addition, the recent rash of hurricanes parading across the Atlantic and plowing through Caribbean islands on their way to the mainland hasn't helped.
"They look at the TV, see storms in the Caribbean and don't want to take a chance," said Vicki Locke, marketing manager for the Buccaneer Hotel. Many travelers face geographic challenges when it comes to the location of each island so they hear Caribbean and think the whole region has been hit, she said.
While the number of last-minute bookings continues to increase, they're especially prevalent in the slow fall season because people look for last-minute deals. When they hear about the hurricanes they don't book, Locke said.
Hotze agreed, noting that as soon as the parade of hurricanes dropped off, last-minute booking picked up.
He and Locke both said fall bookings also tend to be slower during election years.
Vacation Vistas owner Lisa Durgin, who manages 11 vacation villas on St. John, isn't seeing the same drop off. In fact, she said business is 75 percent better than last September. Guests booked a total of five weeks in her 11 villas during September, she said.
The fall season continues to improve since Hurricane Katrina brought the annual hurricane issue into the minds of many would-be travelers. After Katrina, the devastation in New Orleans dominated TV coverage for months.
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.