The USVI tourism team, led by Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte, arrived at the Routes Aviation Conference as strong leaders in their region presenting information and data about the strategic advantages for airlines to work with the territory. The team spoke with senior decision makers from the 15 different airlines, including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Caribbean Airlines and Frontier as well as four airports, such as Philadelphia International Airport and Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport.
Commissioner Boschulte said, “It was a fast-paced, serious and successful opportunity to further cement our relationships and businesses with important airlines and airports. For the past three years, the USVI has been working fervently to increase flights to the USVI. Expanded air traffic has been one of the lynchpins to our incredible tourism recovery during and after the pandemic. Our February occupancy was 75.2%, which was higher than the overall Caribbean at 73.6%. We hope and expect to continue this trend this year.”
The Routes Aviation Conference meetings focused on growth strategies, encouraging new gateways in high-demand markets, adding capacity to existing routes, and, above all, maintaining the high yields the market is currently experiencing. Airline feedback emphasized the continued growth in capacity leading into the winter schedules. Currently, traffic is up by 33% between continental U.S. and St. Thomas even though the average fare is the highest it has been in recent years. Even though the industry is dealing with resource shortages, including pilots and planes, core and new carriers were very bullish on the future for the USVI.
The V.I. Department of Tourism’s specific market analysis and data were very well-received by the airlines, and they were impressed by the preparation done by the team, which, in turn, bolstered excitement for the continuation of the strong performance the territory is currently experiencing.
Already, the U.S. Virgin Islands has seen a significant increase in airlifts to the destination in the last three years, with a 21% rise in nonstop flights from the U.S. in 2022 compared to 2019. Currently, there are 415 weekly flights into the USVI with a passenger load of 29,369 people.
Non-stop flights to St. Thomas are available out of New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, Orlando and Charlotte while non-stop flights to St. Croix go to and from Charlotte, Miami, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. Altogether, there are 21 daily non-stop flights to the USVI from the states.
On March 22, SkyHigh Dominica announced two new flights between the Dominican Republic’s Las Americas International Airport (SDQ) at Santo Domingo and U.S Virgin Islands’ Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas, each week.
Boschulte said, “Along with my colleague, Carlton Dowe, the executive director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Port Authority, we are delighted with the new SkyHigh Dominica biweekly flights into the territory. These two flights each week will enhance visitors’ experiences of both destinations, increasing their access and flexibility especially in planning their vacations in the Caribbean.
“Of course, this also will help local businesses and partnerships as well as families who are visiting relatives and friends throughout the Caribbean. It is a win-win for the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the entire Caribbean.”
The Department of Tourism is not resting on its laurels however and is still pulling out all the stops to attract visitors to the territory. The opening of two properties with 478 units on St. Thomas, including the Westin Beach Resort & Spa and the Seaborn at Frenchman’s Reef; the Sugar Bay Club and Resort Corporation with 294 units; and the Pink Palms Boutique with 27 new units are helping to boost demand.