82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesSummer Bookings a Mixed Bag So Far for V.I. Hoteliers

Summer Bookings a Mixed Bag So Far for V.I. Hoteliers

April 17, 2008 — While some hotels report sagging summer occupancy rates, the fact that U.S. visitors don't need a passport to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands will help boost occupancy rates, several hoteliers said.
"They pick the Virgin Islands because Uncle Harry doesn't have to have a passport," said Richard Doumeng, manager of the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas.
He said that is particularly important to destination wedding and family reunion groups traveling with people who don't want to have to get passports to attend.
Doumeng and other hoteliers said that the U.S. dollar's poor value abroad, particularly in Europe, will send visitors to the Virgin Islands.
"Americans cannot afford Europe," said Joel Kling, manager at the Best Western Emerald Beach and Carib Beach properties on St. Thomas.
Doumeng added that corporate incentive groups like the Virgin Islands because they get tax write-offs by holding an event in the territory instead of a location not under U.S. jurisdiction.
Although the U.S. flag flying overhead and dollars in the cash registers will help summer occupancy rates, hoteliers still face challenges. Lisa Hamilton, who heads the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association, said that St. Croix expects a lower occupancy rate during the traditionally slow summer season.
"We are seeing demand dropping as well into the summer months," she said, calling the outlook a mixed bag.
Fierce competition from similar destinations convinced the tourism association and the government's Department of Tourism to launch the "Sizzling Summer Sampler" promotion providing incentives to visitors, Hamilton said.
Several hoteliers cited the poor stateside economy coupled with rapidly escalating fuel prices as reason why people are limiting their travel.
"This year is a tough year," Hamilton said, adding the presidential election to the list of reasons people aren't traveling.
Kling said the recent chaos caused by American Airlines pulling MD-80 airplanes out of service for Federal Aviation Administration mandated inspections hurt his occupancy rate.
While American doesn't use MD-80s on flights to the Virgin Islands, Kling said that people making connections across the country weren't able to make the final leg of their flights to the territory because some portion of their trip was aboard MD-80s.
"We did lose quite a few bookings," he said.
Potential visitors continue to hold off booking hotels until they find bargains, a practice that is not new to this summer season. Hoteliers have said for several years that late booking, particularly in the off-season, is becoming more prevalent.
"For April, we'll pick up 20 percent of our occupancy rate in April," Doumeng said.
Melody Smith, marketing manager at Maho Bay Camps on St. John, thinks Maho will have a similar story. Right now, the occupancy rate for May stands at 26 percent, but Smith said the campground's policy of allowing children under 16 to stay for free after May 1 will boost the occupancy rate. The campground also lowers its winter rates on May 1 to $80 a night.
And Maho charges guests from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands as well as Puerto Rico half price from May 1 to Dec. 15. Smith said the campground always gets lots of last-minute bookings from locals thanks to this deal.
A couple of people who own or manage small properties said they were pleased with the winter season and expect good things ahead.
Roger Carrington, who owns Carringtons Inn on St. Croix, is pretty happy with the way things went in April for his five-room bed and breakfast.
"I have quite a few returning guests," he said.
He thinks it's a combination of people enjoying St. Croix and the home-like atmosphere of his bed and breakfast.
And with the slower summer season ahead, Carrington said he'll have time to catch up on maintenance.
Robin Clair, who manages the four-unit Estate Zootenvaal on St. John, said the winter was great and the summer looks good.
"And we're booking ahead for next winter season," she said.
At least one vacation villa manager is expecting a banner summer season. Marti Gotts, who manages 50 vacation villas at Vacation St. Croix, said villa guests seem to be different than those who stay at hotels.
"But the villas are a good deal," she said.
She said a two-bedroom villa with a pool on St. Croix starts at $2,000 a week. This puts the price at $285 a night, which isn't much more than a hotel room and provides room to spread out for four people.
Back Talk

Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.