The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism is reporting impressive tourism success in 2021, a banner year for Caribbean tourism, beating the territory’s previous performances in 2020 and 2019.
The U.S. Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research reports 738,040 air arrivals for the period January to November 2021, a 102.5 percent increase over the similar period in 2020 and close to 30 percent from 2019.
USVI Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte said he looked forward to receiving the final statistics for 2021 since December was a particularly impressive month for the territory, based on data gleaned from its Travel Screening Portal.
The class-leading portal registered more than one million submissions last year, and over 116,000 in December, the commissioner reported, crediting the pre-arrivals screening tool as critical in protecting not only the lives of visitors and residents but also the livelihoods of all Virgin Islanders.
Boschulte thanked Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. for his smart and sensible stewardship of the territory throughout the pandemic, along with his cabinet colleagues, including Commissioner of Health Justa Encarnacion for her dedication and commitment to keeping people safe while the economic engine of the USVI revved speedily throughout the year.
“We must also give thanks to the dedicated team at the Department of Tourism who played a key role in our chalking up numerous accolades throughout the year,” said Boschulte.
The territory made Bloomberg Businessweek’s prestigious list of the top places in the world to go to in 2022, while Caribbean Journal, an online tourism media outlet, named the USVI as the ‘Most Innovative Destination of the Year’ and ‘Yachting Destination of the Year,’ no doubt due to the inventiveness of the territory’s approach to tourism development as well as the successful transformation of the marine sector, which has flourished over the past two years.
ForwardKeys, a respected data authority, adjudged the USVI as the ‘Most Resilient Caribbean Destination for 2022 Travel,’ while STR data has consistently ranked the USVI among the leaders across the region in hotel occupancy percentages and average daily revenue.
Boschulte thanked the private sector for its commitment to promoting the destination and delivering excellent service as well as its commitment to public health safety.
He reported that the Department of Tourism generated close to $1.5 billion dollars in earned media coverage in 2021, highlights of which included the December cover story in United Hemispheres magazine as well as impressive coverage in outlets such as ABC Dallas, Bloomberg, Caribbean Journal, CBS Miami, CNN, Miami Herald, MSN, NBC Dallas, New York Daily News, The New York Times, Skift, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, Travel Pulse, Travel Weekly and USA TODAY.
The USVI continues to report strong airlift, and it will aim to solidify its ties with airline partners at the upcoming Routes Americas route development conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Investment interest in the territory is strong, with the opening of Lovango Resort & Beach Club on Lovango Cay (off St. John and St. Thomas) and Concordia Eco-Resort on St. John attracting much attention. Anticipation is also building as the countdown to the 2022 scheduled reopening of the iconic Frenchman’s Reef Marriott on St. Thomas has begun, while next month’s reopening of St. Croix’s Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort, which is adults-only and all-inclusive, will boost interest in The Big Island.
The commissioner pointed out that the USVI continues to appeal to multiple niche markets from romance and honeymoons to marine and affinity groups. “Our attendance at trade shows across the nation is paying dividends,” he said, announcing that there will be more training opportunities for travel agents and tour operators in the months ahead.