Christmas week is shaping up to be pretty good for many of the territory’s hoteliers, but unlike previous holiday seasons, some hotels still have availability.
“That’s always something you don’t want to see,” Lisa Hamilton, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association, said.
A check of the online travel agency, Orbitz, shows that hotels of varying sizes and prices on all three islands have rooms available for the week starting Friday.
Airfare is one culprit that, unlike other years, people just aren’t willing to pay $800 to $1,500 to get to the Virgin Islands Hamilton added.
Seats to the territory are still available: American Airlines lists connecting flights available from New York’s JFK Airport to St. Thomas departing Friday and returning a week later starting at $1,361. A similar trip to St. Croix will run $1,128. American also shows frequent flyer mileage availability from New York area airports on several days throughout the holiday season.
Jet Blue, however, is only charging $555 for its flight from Boston through San Juan to St. Thomas for those same dates. People flying Air Canada on Saturday and returning the next Saturday, the only day of the week the airline flies to St. Thomas, will pay $1,072.
Coconut Coast Studios on St. John had its nine rooms booked up several months ago. Manager Frank Addison said that about half were booked a year ago, with the last two or three rooms filled a few months ago.
“We could have sold them 10 times over,” he said.
He credited the small condo complex’s price at $289 a night for the holiday season as one big selling point. It sits in the middle of higher-priced condos, but not as low as Cruz Bay’s budget properties.
Additionally, Coconut Coast is oceanfront and within walking distance of Cruz Bay, both selling points, Addison said.
Estate Zootenvaal, a four-unit cottage colony on St. John, has half its rooms empty. Manger Robin Clair said the two two-bedroom cottages are filled, and she suggested that they’re because they’re better suited to families. The other two have one bedroom each.
However, she said, this is the first holiday season she can remember where those one-bedroom cottages haven’t filled.
Kristen Cox, owner of St. John Ultimate Villas, said all of her 10 villas aren’t filled either.
“Christmas week, we have only 50 percent,” she said.
However, New Year’s week is totally booked.
Cox also said that she’s had a lot of people inquiring at the last minute, but since she has a one-week minimum for both Christmas and New Year’s weeks, people who want, for example, eight nights, are out of luck.
On St. Croix, Vacation St. Croix has four of its 40 or so villas empty. Owner Marty Gotts has no idea why they didn’t fill, but said that several of her villas were booked in the last few days. Gotts was surprised at the last-minute bookings because flights can be hard to come by.
While Vacation St. Croix has done well with bookings, Gotts said some vacationers will have their arrivals delayed because of weather issues on the mainland.
The Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix is filled for Christmas, marketing manager Vicki Locke said.
“We have been full since around Thanksgiving with weddings, groups, and families,” she said.
The hotel has a bit of a lull during the first 10 days of January, but it’s full for the rest of January.
“And the rest of the season is looking good,” she said.
Mount Victory Camp on St. Croix is filled up over Christmas. It’s not unusual, owner Bruce Wilson said, in part because the campground’s Boxing Day pig roast party is a big draw. He said it not only brings 250 to 350 people to the campground for the party, but helps draw guests to the tent cottages.
At the Caravelle Hotel on St. Croix, visitors arriving on Wednesday’s charter from Denmark have helped push the hotel’s occupancy rate up to 80 percent. There are some other guests, but the Danes have booked the majority of those rooms.
Elsie Galloway, manager of the Caravelle, said Christmas is traditionally slow at this downtown Christiansted hotel, so the arrival of the Danish charter is a boon.
McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Caribbean Villas has one condo and one small villa available for Christmas week out of its St. Thomas stable of 29 villas and 25 condos at the Ritz Carlton Club.
“We did okay on St. Thomas,” Anita Davis, who works in reservations, said.
Davis said that villas make for a great holiday experience because they’re perfect for families. She said that because McLaughlin Anderson has a 10-night minimum during the holiday season, guests get a chance to relax. She said the staff even puts up Christmas trees when requested, and even acquired a grand piano in one villa, so the family could sing carols.