June 16, 2009 — Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty told about 120 people at the 16th annual Destination Symposium Tuesday that both Delta and American airlines will increase the number of flights to the territory later this year.
With the economy floundering, the announcement was met with applause and more than a few sighs of relief.
Addressing the wholesale tour operators, travel writers, hoteliers, and local tourism partners, Doty said Delta will up daily flights from Atlanta to St. Thomas to four flights daily on certain days and will also be flying to St. Croix seven days a week beginning in December. Delta flights from New York to St. Thomas will increase from two days a week to seven.
American Airlines will add three flights to St. Croix out of Miami beginning Nov. 19, bringing the total number of American flights into St. Croix to 10 per week.
Doty and her team detailed marketing and public relations strategies, including the new website up and running since January, a new logo, and new television commercials that began airing Monday and will continue for the next six weeks. The majority of the new advertising, though, will debut in the fall just in time to give the winter tourism season a push.
"The new commercials," Doty said, "invite you to lose the label of who you are at home and fulfill your fantasies in the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Despite a gloomy travel forecast in the last 10 months, Tourisms 4,000 "Sizzling Sampler" promotional packages sold out, bringing more than 16,000 booked room nights to the territory. According to Doty, "The Virgin Islands government put their money where their mouth is and released an additional 2,500 packages."
This summer the department will launch a "secret shopper" program on all three islands, using the information to improve the territorys tourism product. Doty said, "We are fine-tuning our sales force, weve launched a new website and a new advertising campaign. Now we want to close the loop by evaluating our product."
This years symposium theme is "7 Ways to Experience Your Days — Romance, Weddings, Families, Dive, Adventure, Groups, and Shopping!" The U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association, organizers of the annual symposium, will be highlighting each of the seven specific market segments throughout the symposium presentations and activities with the understanding that "todays consumer is focused on their vacation 'experience' more than ever."
Lisa Hamilton, HTA president, is in her second year of planning the symposium together with Canika George-John, manager of events and committees for HTA. According to Hamilton, "The main goal of the symposium is to provide networking opportunities for the suppliers." Wednesdays schedule of events includes one-on-one appointments between suppliers and travel partners before the delegates head to St. Croix for a couple of days of Crucian hospitality.
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