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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 20, 2024


Oct. 9, 2002 – A;though cruise ship passenger arrivals fell in 2001, Edward Thomas, The West Indian Co. president, said Tuesday he anticipates a strong rebound in the 2003 season.
"The cruise industry is our mainstay right now," he said, yet cautioned, "It certainly needs to be handled with care."
Thomas addressed a crowd of about 75 at the Ad Club of the Virgin Islands preseason luncheon aboard the Carnival Pride, which was tied up at the WICO dock. Thomas explained many initiatives that fall under "handling with care," and gave an overall picture of where the territory stands today in the industry in his presentation, "Post September 11 Cruise Tourism Recovery."
Thomas said the nation's leading economists suggest the economy may not fully rebound until the third quarter of 2003. But Thomas hopes to see the Virgin Islands coming in ahead of that mark.
Citing a Caribbean Tourism Organization report, Thomas said the 2001 terrorism attacks and the recession combined to injure what had been a "vibrant" 2001 cruise season.
"Let us fast forward to today," Thomas said. He cited a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, which predicts "high growth (in the cruise industry) after a year of stabilization and recovery in 2002." The WTTC anticipates a "massive worldwide rebound will take place in 2003, with Caribbean tourism forecast to increase by 7.1 percent higher than the global forecast of 6.0 percent."
Thomas said, "Specifically in the St. Thomas-St. John district, we ended Sept. 2002 with 1.7 million cruise passenger arrivals, as compared to 1.9 million the previous fiscal year."
Thomas cautioned that raw numbers don't tell the whole story. It depends on what the average passenger spends. He said the last study showed spending on St. Thomas at $173 per person, so the 1.7 million passengers this past year generated some $735 million, and an additional $133.7 million was generated by some 500,000 crew members spending, for a total $867.7 million in this sector of the tourism market.
In comparison, Thomas said, 600,000 overnight hotel guests spent an average of $337 per person, generating $555 million in total economic activity for the overnight sector. "It can clearly be seen, "Thomas said, "that St. Thomas' bread and butter is cruise tourism."
Thomas said the 1.7 million visitors in Fiscal Year 2002, ending Sept. 30, was "a remarkable achievement post Sept. 11." "It shows the resilience of the American traveler, in particular."
Thomas also described an initiative to turn some of those cruise travelers and others into overnight guests. He said WICO has endorsed a new program sponsored by Tropical Shipping along with select hotels and the Tourism Department to encourage the overnight visitors by giving them a coin imprinted with a FreestayCaribbean.com Web address that is redeemable for free hotel nights at participating properties when additional nights are booked.
He also said, "A major cruise line is in the embryonic stages of discussion with the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association executive director Beverly Nicholson with a view toward establishing a pre and post cruise hotel program here." He did not name the specific cruise line.
Though Thomas did not state the number of passengers anticipated in the 2003 season, he did provide the cruise ship schedules, noting that all the major cruise lines would revert to their complete itineraries. He cautioned that if the U.S. invades Iraq, cruise arrivals in the Caribbean and elsewhere would no doubt drop.
Thomas said that infrastructure remains a big problem with luring back the cruise lines to St. Croix, and that safety for passengers and transportation from Frederiksted to Christiansted are concerns.
He said Tourism Commissioner Pam Richards is scheduled to meet with Michael Ronan, director of destination development for Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, on Friday to discuss what the government and the private sector are doing to fight crime and several other issues which led the cruise lines to cancel calls on St. Croix.
Tropical Storm Lili's approach to the V.I. prohibited Richards attending the 9th annual conference of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association in Cancun in September, where she was scheduled to participate in a panel discussing cruise ship "conversion" programs, which refers to turning cruise visitors into returning overnight hotel guests.
One of the Ad Club members who had attended the conference said Tuesday that Richards' absence was noted by the F-CCA members, who concluded that "the V.I. had little interest in promoting its own tourism since it had neglected to send a representative to the conference."
Richards was in a meeting Wednesday morning, and not available for comment.

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