CTO’s State of the Industry Conference: USVI Update

Chef Digby Stridiron prepping a meal for media—his new restaurant opens next year.  (Photo credit: Ed Wetschler.)
Chef Digby Stridiron prepping a meal for media—his new restaurant opens next year. (Photo credit: Ed Wetschler.)

Talk about focused marketing: The United States and other Caribbean islands account for 93 percent of visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Occupancy is up over last year, too —73 percent vs. 68 percent. What’s next? At a Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) press conference yesterday, USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, shared an update whose highlights include:

  • Delta Air Lines has added a Saturday nonstop from Atlanta that will start Dec. 20 and run through Aug. 15. All told, the USVI now has nonstops from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Miami, Newark and JFK, Philadelphia, and San Juan.
  • This reporter can confirm that the new people in purple shirts patrolling Cyril E. King Airport to assist incoming passengers are a godsend. There’ve been other improvements, too, but back to the people in purple: Every airport should have ambassadors like this.
  • A new museum at Bluebeard’s Castle, created and curated by a wreck diver in the well-maintained turret of a 350-year-old fort is an eye-opener: coins, chinaware, guns, and legends from the sea. P.S. Tours include some tales about Bluebeard, too, a legendary character who was not an especially nice person.
  • The Westin St. John will complete its $50 million renovation in January 2015. This includes 54 new luxury villas, including timeshares, and improvements to the spa, fitness center, and beach restaurant.
  • Back to St. Thomas, a new 4-bedroom villa, Outrigger House, offers a lot of space and a private pool with art-inspired pastel decor. So far bookings have come through VRBO, but the owner does offer commissions to agents. The villa costs $7,350 a week in high season. Visit outriggerhouse.com.
  • Here’s a handy tool for agents: The new “Choose Your View” feature on Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Resort’s website offers 15-second videos of the view from various categories of rooms.
  • The farm-to-table, nouvelle Caribbean movement contines to expand. For example, in the spring of 2015, celebrity chef Digby Stridiron, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, will open a restaurant in a restored plantation house on St. Croix. A promise from one who has eaten this chef’s food—it will be extraordinary.
  • Also on St. Thomas, the Coral World Ocean Park’s Observation Tower has gotten a makeover that gives visitors a parrot fish view of a vibrantly colorful coral reef and its hangers-on. Excellent signage, too, so visitors don’t have to guess why this or that fish is doing something fishy.

For further information,call (800) 372-USVI, or visit visitusvi.com.