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HomeNewsArchivesNo Room at the Inns: St. Croix's Hotels 'Overbooked'

No Room at the Inns: St. Croix's Hotels 'Overbooked'

Jan. 21, 2005 – If you're planning a trip to St. Croix in the near future, you're going to have to look very hard for a hotel room.
"St. Croix is pleasantly overbooked," Steve Bornn, the Tourism Department's marketing director, said Friday.
While St. Thomas and St. John, as usual, are filled to the brim with visitors, St. Croix seldom finds itself in this position.
"Last year was gruesome," Fred Laue, owner of the Inn at Pelican Heights and president of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association said.
It appears that a combination of factors is filling St. Croix's rooms. In addition to the normal winter increase in visits, visitors arriving via charter flights from Denmark are booking rooms, particularly at the less expensive properties.
And, HOVENSA is about to start its scheduled maintenance on its catalytic cracker. Alex A. Moorhead, who serves as HOVENSA's vice president for government affairs, community relations and is the company secretary, said that about 1,200 people will be working on the four-to-six-week project.
Since most of those people are coming from off island, they too are filling hotel rooms.
Laue said that the spate of fall 2004 hurricanes that damaged other Caribbean islands has also helped St. Croix's occupancy rate.
Lastly, the Tourism Department is in the midst of a television advertising campaign on national cable television that promotes only St. Croix.
"We are continuing to push St. Croix as a destination," Bornn said.
Bornn said the department is also running a cable television advertisement that touts the entire Virgin Islands.
He declined to say how long they would run because he didn't want to tip off the competition.
Laue said he thinks St. Croix's numerous small properties are a selling point, but wishes that the Tourism Department would market the island's history, culture and personality.
"Most of the properties are not big enough to market it themselves," he said.
Calls to a random selection of St. Croix hotels turned up the same story everywhere – no room at the inn.
Www.hotels.com showed rooms at Chenay Bay Beach Resort, but front office manager Carla Gregor said those rooms were allotted to the Web site and would probably soon be gone.
She said that a woman called earlier Monday to inquire about a room. By the time she called back Monday afternoon to book it, the hotel was full up. She said people had also called Monday looking for blocks of rooms, but the hotel had no room for them.
"The island is incredible," she said.
Laue said that although www.hotels.com lists his property as having rooms for next week, he didn't have any available.
Vicki Locke, director of sales and marketing at The Buccaneer Hotel, said the hotel was filled.
"We are closed out till the 28th," she said.
In addition to the normal winter repeat visitors and those escaping the cold winter weather in the states, she said that a couple of small groups and a handful of HOVENSA workers helped fill rooms.
At Carrington's Inn, owner Claudia Carrington said she had one room available next week, but only because she had a cancellation.
She said that if the phone rings 10 times, nine of the calls are from people looking for a room. She's had to turn them all down.
"People are asking 'what am I going to do?' You can hear the frustration in their voice," she said.
She said February looks pretty good for business, but she does have a day here and a day there. Carrington reminded people coming for President's Day weekend in late February that they need to book their rooms now. She said the long weekend coupled with the St. Croix Agricultural Fair and the St. Croix Yacht Club's International Regatta make rooms very hard to find.
At the Hotel Caravelle, front desk staff Christina Hendrickson said the hotel had nothing available until Feb. 8, and then only for one night.
The story was the same at properties all over the island.
"There's a onesie and a twosie here and there," Divi Carina Bay manager Pat Henry said.
He said except for the odd night here and there, the hotel was fully booked until the end of February.
Even Carambola Beach Resort, which has often seen its occupancy rate slip as the hotel suffered through bankruptcy proceedings and changes in ownership, is filled up.
"Things are great," manager Shannon Burdge said.
He said the hotel was filled up till the end of February.
At the Pink Fancy, owner Motasem Ahmed said the hotel was very, very busy.
He too has the odd day open, but he also is turning away customers.
"Today, I had around 25 calls," he said.
If you've managed to get a room, but haven't booked your rental car, you may be out of luck.
Sal Sanpere, who owns Olympic Car Rental, said a lot of cars from his car rental colleagues have gone to HOVENSA workers. However, he said he'd prefer to work with tourists because they'll remember on their next visit who didn't have a car for them.
He also wishes that HOVENSA's schedule would have allowed the catalytic cracker maintenance to be done in the summer.
"That's when St. Croix could use the business," he said.

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