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Winter Season Great, Summer Has Some Promise

May 16, 2005 –– Across the territory, hoteliers did 10 to 15 percent better this winter season than they did last year, Beverly Nicholson, V.I. Hotel Association president, said last week.
She said the winter season this year lasted about a month longer than last year and St. Croix, which usually lags behind the other islands when it comes to hotel occupancy, did well.. She said it was due in part to the Hovensa cat cracker project. Those workers filled rooms at some hotels, which sent visitors to others that did not have Hovensa guests.
"We're just beginning to see some softening, but that's to be expected," Nicholson said.
She said she anticipates the Hotel Association's summer promotion program will help fill rooms in the upcoming months. Monday the Association announced a Summer Super Saver promotion. It offers to summer visitors a $200 air credit and a coupon booklet with savings of up to $500 when they reserve a minimum five night stay at a participating hotel..
Vicki Locke, sales and marketing director at the Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix, said Monday this past winter was better than last year.
"But for summer, it's too early to tell," she said.
She said that the additional weekly non-stop flights added by Delta, and in June, U.S. Airways should help bring more people to St. Croix.
She added the Buccaneer has its own summer promotion that includes a free night if you stay four, a rental car for one day, a round of golf or a 30-minute spa treatment, and a bottle of champagne.
At Fort Christian Brew Pub on St. Croix, bartender Jamie Pegram was too rushed to talk, but did allow Monday that the winter season was good.
Matt Balcik, hotel manager at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John, said Saturday the hotel reported the best winter occupancies it had for a long time.
"And the summer looks like 85 to 90 percent occupancy," he said.
He said that even September, so far, is running at 60 to 65 percent occupancy rate.
Balcik credited the hotel's success with the fact that St. John is a "hot" location. He said the island is very popular for weddings, with the Westin doing 60 to 70 a month.
"And having a strong brand like Starwood helps," he said,
The Westin belongs to the Starwood family of hotels.
At the four-unit Estate Zootenvaal on St. John, manager Robin Clair said last week winter was "non stop."
"It was beautiful, wonderful," she said.
She said May was busy, but the summer looked like its usual slow season.
Lauren Morrisette, owner of the 10-room Estate Lindholm bed and breakfast, said last week she was booked solid through July 4.
She said the winter was the same, with vacationers spending a few nights here and a few nights there so they could vacation on St. John.
"We were slammed," she said.
On St. Thomas, the two Best Western properties, Emerald Beach and Carib Beach Hotels, had a good winter.
"It was a little bit up from last year and last year was good too," manager Joel Kling said Friday.
He said May was a little softer than last year, but June and July look promising.
As for August, he said people don't book that far ahead because they're looking for last-minute bargains.
He said that while bargain-hunting overrides other reasons for late booking, people worrying about a terrorist attack also wait until the last minute.
While the news looks good so far, Kling said that if anywhere in the Caribbean gets an early hurricane, the Virgin Islands will suffer because people don't have any sense of Caribbean geography.
On the retail front, Audi Shani at Little America gift shop on St. Thomas, said Monday that, although the store had more traffic than the year before, its winter season wasn't as good as the year before.
"There was not as much spending," he said.
Deirdre Smith at Blue Water Divers on St. Thomas said the company had a good season thanks to hotel guests and cruise ship passengers. She said that while the company has no contracts with cruise ship lines to provide dive trips, passengers find out about Blue Water Divers through their Web site and book online.
The Summer Super Saver promotion is valid for travel June 1 through Aug. 31.
St. Croix properties participating in this promotion include Antilles Resorts Club St. Croix, Antilles Resort Colony Cove, the Buccaneer Hotel, Carambola Beach Resort, Chenay Bay Resort, Divi Carina Bay & Casino, Hotel Caravelle, and the King Christian Hotel. Participating St. John and St. Thomas properties include Caneel Bay Resort, the Westin Resort St. John, Antilles Resorts Anchorage, Antilles Resorts Crystal Cove, Antilles Resorts Sapphire Village, Best Western Carib Beach, Best Western Emerald Beach, Bolongo Bay Beach Club & Villas, Marriott Frenchman’’s Reef, Holiday Inn, Point Pleasant Resort, Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina, Secret Harbor Resort, the Ritz Carlton and Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa.
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