Hoteliers indicated the week before Christmas that, although rooms were still available, bookings were good for the holidays, a trend that carried over to many retailers, restaurant owners, and activity operators.
“We’ve had a great week,” Chris Meyer, owner at the Lime Inn restaurant on St. John, said.
While she hasn’t yet crunched the numbers, she said customers seemed to spend a bit more than last holiday season by buying wine by the bottle instead of by the glass and splurging on desserts.
At the Nest gift shop at Mongoose Junction shopping center on St. John, owner Missy Hensel said that her customers spent well.
“They were generous in buying,” she said.
It was hard for her to gauge if she was actually doing better than last year because she re-located this year from the Marketplace shopping center, which gets far less visitor traffic than Mongoose Junction.
Russ Kerr, who owns St. John Concierge Service, said Christmas week was great. He books boat charters and other activities, and said that 85 percent of the boats he represented had passengers every day between Christmas and New Year’s.
“They went to Foxy’s for New Year’s,” he said, referring to the popular New Year’s Eve party on nearby Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.
St. John rental cars are often in short supply, and Christmas week was no different at St. John Car Rentals.
“Other than Presidents’ Day, it’s the busiest week of the season,” owner Albert Willis said.
On St. Croix, Rum Runners restaurant in Christiansted had customers spending on extras like desserts.
“We had a great week,” kitchen manager Janice Miranda said.
Margot Meacham, owner of Gone Tropical gift shop in Christiansted, was fearful after “the worst summer ever,” but Christmas week turned out pretty good.
However, it wasn’t tourists that were shopping in her store.
“It’s my local customers making a point to shop locally,” she said.
Meacham said that while Christiansted is busy with visitors, many arrived on the charter flight from Denmark. The Danes aren’t big spenders, Meacham said.
“No tipping and no buying,” she said of the Danish visitors.
Every rental car on St. Croix is booked, Judi of Croix car rental company owner Christie Powers said.
“If I had a skateboard, I could have rented it,” she said.
While many of the renters are tourists visiting for the holidays and snowbirds arriving for the winter season, the island’s Crucian Christmas Festival brings in people from other islands, as well as people visiting family.
However, Powers said that the rush started about nine or 10 days later than the usual Dec. 15 start to the holiday car rental crush. She had no idea why.
Alas, they weren’t playing golf, at least not as many people as used to play, Buccaneer Golf Course pro Tim Johnston said. The number of people playing was about the same as the last two years, he added.
He suggested that while people were visiting and renting cars, they cut corners on extras like golf. They’re also doing things like snorkeling, which is free, he said.
On St. Thomas, Monday was busy at the Greenhouse Restaurant and Bar. It was so busy the bartender didn’t have a minute to talk and passed the phone to manager Charles Mojar.
“We’re crazy busy here,” he said.
It’s been busy since the week before Christmas, Mojar said. People are spending on drinks and appetizers, but seem to be not so interested in desserts, he added.
Charter Boat Center owner Al Day said his Pirate’s Penny and Stormy Petrel day charter boats were booked up.
“That’s a lot of repeaters and a lot of families. Very little new business,” he said.
However, because the Charter Boat Center is based in Red Hook, he said his guests are equally split between those vacationing on St. Thomas and St. John.
Like the customers at Gone Tropical on St. Croix, locals kept the staff at the three Local Color stores on St. Thomas busy, manager Joan Cook said.
She said the stores in the downtown Charlotte Amalie shopping district, Havensight Mall, and at Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Beach Resort did see their share of visitors. Cook said that they had a range of high and low spenders at all three stores.
Cherelle Vanterpool, rental agent at Dependable Car Rental on St. Croix, said all the company’s cars were rented for Christmas week, and people were still calling in hopes of getting a rental.
Overall, the holidays seemed to be indicative of a better year to come in 2012.