With the busy winter time in full swing, Love City hotel rooms and villas are quickly filling up and the 2008 high season is shaping up to be just as strong, if not stronger, than last year.
While most hotels and short-term rentals on island are nearing capacity, the latest travel trend seems to be last minute bookings, according to St. John Inn owner Sarah Close.
“There was a slow start to the season for me, but I’m getting a ton of last minute reservations,” said Close. “I think the budget travelers are the ones who are most affected by the economy in the U.S. and they are waiting until the last minute to book. So the bookings are a couple of months behind than normal, but things are filling up.”
Strong repeat visitors have kept Destination St. John owner Laura Brego busy.
“The season is going really well for us,” Brego said. “I think the repeat guests always book a year in advance and then in the first or second week of January the rest of them think how nice it would be to get out of the cold and come down here. Then it really gets busy.”
St. John Ultimate Villas is also enjoying last minute travelers filling in the booking gaps.
“We’re more than half way booked through season,” said owner Kristen Cox. “We’re getting a ton of last minute bookings — less than two weeks even. The last minute bookings have really increased over the last two months.”
VIVA! Villas Inc. is having a banner year and expecting to increase business this year.
“We’re having a great season,” said VIVA general manager Karin Schlesinger. “Someone definitely turned on the faucet — we’re very busy. We’re expecting growth this year over last year.”
Steady repeat clients are a big part of the company’s success, explained Schlesinger.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Schlesinger said. “There are a lot of loyal repeat guests finding they need their St. John fix and we’re looking forward to taking care of them to the best of our ability.”
Gallows Point Resort is also expecting their numbers to grow from last year, explained resort manager Akhil Deshwal.
“It’s looking like a really good season,” said Deshwal. “We have almost five percent more bookings this month than we had last year. For February we’re looking to do about the same strong numbers as last year.”
A flood of short-term rental properties on the market is making Book-It VI’s season a bit spotty, explained owner Christy Dove.
“It’s still looking like it’s going to be a strong season,” said Dove. “But I think that there are so many homes now on the market that the rentals are a bit spread out. There is still some availability, but I’m expecting things to fill up.”
The island’s two largest hotels, Westin Resort and Villas and Caneel Bay Resort, are looking forward to normally strong high seasons.
“We’re having a great year,” said Andrea Meeker, with the Westin’s revenue management department. “It’s looking as strong as last year, and maybe even stronger.”
“The winter season is going fabulously,” said Caneel managing director Nikolay Hotze. “It’s looking as busy as last year. We’re looking forward to a really good year with good rates, good business and happy people.”
With full rooms and houses across the island, combined with a few cruise ships calling on Cruz Bay and day trippers from St. Thomas, Love City is experiencing another stellar tourist season.