Demand for travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands is surging, the Department of Tourism reported Tuesday after meeting airline officials on the mainland last week.
After talks with United Airlines in Chicago and American Airlines in Dallas, Tourism Commissioner designee Joseph Boschulte said there has been strong demand for seats on planes bound for the territory’s airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix this past winter season, which is likely to result in additional capacity this winter season as well as the following summer.
In fact, Boschulte reported that United was preparing to launch daily nonstop Houston-St. Thomas service for this summer and would also consider plans for new and additional flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix the following summer, especially with the increased business from the oil refinery on St. Croix and as additional hotel rooms become available.
“We have had some very important discussions about the future of airlift to the territory and look forward to following up with our airline partners to ensure that we have adequate flights into our islands, especially as more accommodations come on line in the months ahead,” Boschulte said, noting that United had already loaded new Saturday flights between Chicago and St. Thomas before the coming winter season.
His meeting with American Airlines at its Dallas headquarters was also positive, according to the news release from the Department of Tourism, with the airline reporting robust growth in demand to the destination. Under consideration for American, Boschulte said, was increased capacity from Chicago, Dallas and Miami in the coming months, and potential for growth out of the Charlotte hub in the future, benefiting both airports in the territory.
While in Chicago and Dallas, Boschulte also met with travel agents, meeting planners, travel writers, social influencers and community leaders to update them on the territory’s recovery, as well as to develop smart partnerships.
“These meetings matter as we embark on a managed growth strategy through the full return of land-based tourism following the storms of 2017,” he said. “The travel and tourism sector is changing to meet its growth and is becoming more electronic and internet-based, but ironically, the more virtual it gets, the more important it is to regularly meet face-to-face with our partners.”
I see American sent their most senior interns to interact with our esteemed Mr. Boschulte. Does AA still require St Thomas customers to arrive 3 hours before flight? Maybe Mr. Boschulte could use his influence to cut that time down to 2 hours. Perhaps a chat with the local AA contractors, or more importantly with CBP who seem to relish the long lines out the door. And of course there is TSA, another layer of bureaucracy which could improve as well. Of course the theater is entertaining to a captive audience.