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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024


Dec. 20, 2001 – Christmas week hasn't turned out as bad as many hoteliers feared. Although there are vacancies here and there, numerous places, particularly on St. John, report they are full.
"We have a couple of rooms until Dec. 22, but we're booked from Dec. 23 'til Jan. 1," Caneel Bay Resort manager Brian Young said.
Most are repeat visitors, including the rich and famous, whom Young declines to identify, that come every year – and usually book by early spring. However, he said a few Christmas regulars canceled their bookings this fall, which opened room for some new guests.
Young said repeat guests view Caneel Bay as a gathering place to meet old friends and swap stories. "We were a little afraid people would forgo the holiday tradition," he acknowledged.
At the St. John Westin Resort, general manager Greg Lundberg said the hotel will have a 98 percent occupancy rate Christmas week. And that, he said, makes it "a normal Christmas." He said most of the guests booked early, but the hotel filled up during the last three weeks. At
At Estate Lindholm, a small inn on St. John, owner Brion Morrisette said all the rooms are booked from this weekend until Jan. 1, and bookings are starting to come in for January. He said the telephone barely rang for about a week and a half after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the momentum has been steady since then. "It's looking to be a good month," he said.
At the St. John Inn, except for a few openings on Christmas and New Year's days, the week is full. Manager Julie Aleman said business is picking up, and she expects January and February to be good.
However, Aleman said, it's evident there are fewer visitors on St. John than would normally be seen at this time of year. For example, she said, most days, cars have to honk to get around the happy hour crowd that spills over the sidewalk and into the street at Woody's Seafood Saloon and Restaurant in Cruz Bay. Now, there is no crowd in the street.
Several St. John vacation villa managers and owners also report 100 percent occupancy rate for Christmas week. "Bookings were pretty good from mid-October 'til the end of the year," Cloud Nine Villas owner Allen Glenn said, and the telephone is continuing to ring.
On St. Croix, the Breakfast Club is filled up for Christmas, owner Toby Chapin said, "and it's all repeat business, too." He said holiday guests start arriving Thursday. He'll won't have any vacancy until Jan. 8.
However, Chapin said he is worried about the rest of the season.While he's booked up for major events like the May triathlon and musical events, so far he has no need to hang out the "no vacancy" sign the rest of the season.
The Buccaneer Hotel has "a room or two" available over Christmas, but fills up starting Dec. 27 and on through New Year's, spokeswoman Christine Goodier said. "But New Year's is always fuller here than Christmas," she noted, speculating that people like to stay home for Christmas but spend the New Year holiday at a resort.
Hotels sometimes get unusual requests from guests. This year, Goodier said, she got an e-mail from a family of four that wanted the hotel to arrange a cheese fondue for them on Christmas Eve. The woman "said it was a family tradition," Goodier said, and even offered to bring the cheese if it was not available locally.
Beverly Nicholson, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association, said there are still vacancies island wide on St. Thomas for Christmas week. "Only a few hotels are sold out for Christmas," she said.
Barbara Cooper, owner of Island View Guest House on St. Thomas, said her occupancy rate is about 60 percent for Christmas week. "We were busier last year," she said, noting that many of the holiday guests booked within the last couple of weeks.
The Renaissance Grand Beach Resort will see about 90 percent occupancy for four or five nights in the Christmas-to-New Year's period, general manager David Yamada said. "We're starting to see more and more short-term bookings," he said. He attributed much of the last-minute business to lowered airfares. "They're a huge help," he said.
At Secret Harbour Beach Resort, business is not as good as last year, manager Ernest Halliday said. "It looks good, but not as good as we had hoped," he said, adding that Secret Harbour, too, is getting last-minute bookings. With the reservations still being entered into the computer, he said he didn't know exactly where the occupancy rate stood.
Best Western Emerald Beach Resort will hit 85 to 90 percent occupancy, general manager Joel Kling said. "Because of the location, we'll get some last-minute bookings," he added, referring to the fact that the hotel is near Cyril E. King Airport.
Emerald Beach's sister property, Best Western Carib Beach Resort, is reopening Friday. It had closed for renovations on Sept. 1 and didn't reopen when it had only a few bookings after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Hopefully, we'll stay open," said Kling, who also manages Carib Beach. He said the hotel is looking at 60 percent occupancy for Christmas through New Year's.
Richard Doumeng, general manager of Bolongo Bay Beach Club and Villas, said his hotel is just about sold out from Dec. 27 through Jan. 1, but January and February are behind last year. He thinks airline marketing changes may be contributing to late bookings. Many people wait for last-minute airfare deals before they book a hotel, he said.
Doumeng also pointed out that his hotel rates are lower this year than last. "This is the first time we're giving away anything in the winter season," he said.
He was referring to the "Stay and Play, We'll Pay" promotion initiated by the Tourism Department at the start of November. It gives guests booking at least three nights' accommodations the fourth night free, plus $200 in American Express traveler's checks to spend as they like. The promotion ends Dec. 25 and travel must be completed by March 31. Bookings must be made through participating tour operators.

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