Bryan, American Airlines Extol Partnership at Meeting in Dallas

The USVI and American Airlines teams meet in Dallas: From left are AA’s Lindsey Hanbidge, Henning Greiser, Michael Eng and Brandon Norman; Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., V.I. Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte and Special Assistant to the Governor Dave E. Davis; and Haley Finkenbinder and Liz Plunkett of American Airlines. (Submitted photo)

After a strong tourism performance over the past 12 months, while much of the rest of the Caribbean was locked down due to COVID-19, the U.S. Virgin Islands is getting back to basics and strengthening its relationship with its airline partners, according to government officials.

During a visit to American Airlines’ newly minted headquarters in Dallas last week, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. thanked the carrier for its strong commitment to the territory during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped the destination register robust arrivals throughout the year, according to a news release following the meeting.

Airports on both St. Thomas and St. Croix were hubs of activity as the airlines honored the governor’s approach to managing the pandemic with health protocols to help protect lives and livelihoods, including masking and COVID-19 tests taken within five days of travel to the islands, while still keeping the USVI open to tourism, according to the release.

V.I. Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, right, speaks with ABC 8 morning anchor Cleo Greene on Sunday. (Submitted photo)

Over the summer, American Airlines served St. Thomas with daily flights from New York and Philadelphia, twice-daily flights from Dallas, and thrice-daily service from Charlotte, North Carolina, and Miami, according to the release. On St. Croix, Charlotte flights arrived daily, while Miami service operated twice a day.

“Traditional seasonality was disrupted in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Bryan, who said summer air arrivals during the pandemic rivaled and surpassed traditional winter statistics.

The governor underscored the territory’s business-minded approach to route development, the work currently taking place to improve the islands’ infrastructure – including enhancements to the airports, downtown and waterfront areas – and the rebuilding of hotels and resorts that were impacted by the twin Category 5 hurricanes of 2017.

“We are undergoing a transformation for the better and intend to not only lead the region across multiple tourism indicators but also to work with our neighbors to help position the entire Caribbean as a first-class location for vacationers and business travelers,” Bryan said in the release.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., right, meets with NBC 5’s Vince Sims during a trip to Dallas last week. (Submitted photo)

V.I. Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, who also attended the meeting in Dallas, said the Tourism Department had begun amplifying its messaging in the marketplace. “As the world opens up, the availability of aircraft has become a challenge for small states and territories such as ours, so it is critically important to remain visible and strengthen our relationships across the sector,” he said.

He added that the territory will continue to communicate its value proposition and ensure that travelers have a seamless travel experience through its custom-built Travel Screening Portal. “Ease of access will continue to be our mantra as we position the territory and prepare for upcoming challenges and opportunities in travel and tourism,” said Boschulte.

During their visit to Dallas, Bryan interviewed with two-time Emmy award-winning journalist Vince Sims of NBC 5, while Boschulte appeared on ABC’s daybreak show anchored by Cleo Greene, who got her first gig as a feature reporter on St. Croix.

Boschulte also met with representatives from Southwest Airlines to explore possibilities for new service into the territory, according to the news release.