JetBlue Airways flight B6 2219 arrived for the first time in St. Thomas Thursday, bringing with it many visitors from the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut area who are ready to explore the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Department of Tourism prepped itself with goodies, dancers, a water salute, a red carpet, and even a moko jumbie to welcome the disembarking tourists into the territory as the department anticipates many benefits from JetBlue’s new route.
“It’s a great benefit to the industry now that we have more options in getting to the US Virgin Islands. And it’s a great expansion for JetBlue,” said Nicole George-Petersen, customer care coordinator for the Tourism Department.
“This signifies a growth of not just the leisure traveler but a welcoming back to also the business travelers,” Assistant Tourism Commissioner Alani Henneman-Todman said.
“The flights from the tri-state areas are very important. We lost some of them after the hurricanes, so having them come back and having that connection to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, all those states, provide not only leisure travelers but important business travelers as well,” she said.
The Tourism Department anticipates that this new regular flight will allow the territory to see some financial gain as it adds over 180 arrivals over the course of the year.
Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte said, “Every flight to the territory helps us overall in terms of awareness and ultimately dollars spent in the territory. But specifically, for this JetBlue, Newark-St. Thomas direct, the tri-state area has historically been one of the best areas for USVI tourism, and to have more lift out of the tri-state area, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, bodes well for our summer product and into the winter season.”
Boschulte also said the population of residents in the tri-state area is large and their disposable income is higher than average compared to residents in other locations, so their spending power benefits the territory.
When asked how he thinks the territory will fare with the high influx of residents arriving in the territory, Boschulte said, “In spite of the fact that some of our largest hotels have not recovered since hurricanes Irma and Maria, we’ve been fortunate to have the sharing economy, Airbnb, pick up much of that lax in accommodation and space. And then secondly, what we found as a direct result of the pandemic is that we began to increase our inventory of beds on the sea. People are staying in traditional hotels, and Airbnb space, as well as charter boats.”
The Tourism Department is working diligently to expand the tourism industry in the territory for all islands. JetBlue’s flight B6 2219 is not the last anticipated for the year.
“We are in the process at the Department of Tourism to aggressively market this area. This is our second flight out of Newark,” Henneman-Todman said. “We are meeting with a few airlines now … we do anticipate new airlifts for the territory for this year and next year as well.”
They are also seeing a growing interest in the market for St. Croix.
Henneman-Todman said, “After some meetings with the airlines, there is a potential flight for St. Croix. So we are trying to make sure that our demand is there to sustain the flights.”
One of the things the Tourism Department is also trying to push is marketing more local businesses with locally made goods and services. The Tourism Department has gotten a lot of feedback in the past about visitors wanting an authentic experience when arriving in the Caribbean. As a result, the Tourism Department included locally made and branded items such as tarts, key chains, and luggage tags in the gift bags handed out to the arriving visitors.
Updates and more information about traveling to the Virgin Islands can be found here.