A regular Source column, Undercurrents explores issues, ideas and events developing beneath the surface in the Virgin Islands community.
Ready or not, here they come – American and European guests for the 2017 commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the U.S.
Last fall, the V.I. Tourism Department announced it was setting aside $2 million to promote the Centennial.
It has already spent, or committed, almost $1 million of that sum on advertising, marketing and promotion, according to Alani Henneman-Todman, director of communications for the department. She said the multi-pronged effort seems to be paying off big time.
She listed some of the major approaches, and their costs as:
– $250,000 for cooperative marketing with key tour operators, and for travel trade events in Denmark to encourage travel during the Centennial.
– $60,000 has been allocated for a travel promotion package for the Centennial.
– $350,000 has been spent on an online marketing campaign for the Centennial.
– $100,000 has been allocated for print ads in lifestyle magazines and targeted newspaper ads in Scandinavian communities in the U.S.
– $65,000 has been used to subsidize visits of Virgin Islands groups to Denmark to raise awareness about the Centennial.
The special promotion package, which is being advertised widely and which appears on the department website www.visitusvi.com, is particularly successful, Todman indicated.
“It’s been generating quite a buzz,” she said. “We’re answering 20 to 25 calls a day from visitors about the promotion.”
Travelers who book a trip to the territory for any time this year – and who make their booking by Oct. 1, 2017, can get $300 worth of spending credits for historical/cultural tours. Major events are scheduled for March, since the formal Transfer took place March 31, and anyone visiting that month also will receive a Centennial souvenir. The website lists 27 participating hotels, 11 each on St. Croix and St. Thomas and five on St. John. They range from small to large, modest to luxury.
Tourism “has been inundated with telephone calls and emails about the promotion, as various media have picked up and spread the coverage across the United States,” Todman said. “We are extremely impressed with the overwhelming response to this promotion both on the U.S. mainland and in the Denmark and Scandinavian regions.”
A regular Norwegian flight to the V.I. has already surpassed its bookings from last year.
There’s a lot of personal contact going on as well. Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty has been stateside, where she visited various media outlets to promote the Centennial events, Todman said. The department has sponsored several Danish film groups and media visits to the territory. It hosted a Danish Tour Operator Familiarization visit in September and two media visits in November.
Such visits will continue in the coming months and some are tied to local events, such as the St. Croix Agricultural Fair.