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“We have been making steady progress,” reported Joseph Boschulte at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s annual Marketplace, held this year in Montego Bay. And to be perfectly clear, the new tourism commissioner designee declared, “The U.S.V.I. is open for business.” Moreover, he added, “Our facilities will be better as a result of the [post-hurricane] rebuild.”

Following are some details:

  • First the big picture: “60-65 percent our accommodations are back on line,” said Boschulte, and that statement is no longer true, and for the best of reasons: A week after Marketplace ended, the Westin St. John Resort Villas (This is important, not just because the redesigned Westin is a beautiful—and large—property, but because it’s long been one of St. John’s two flagship properties.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, another flagship property for the USVI, is slated to reopen in November.
  • About 600 villa units are available in the St. Thomas-St. John district, while St. Croix has another 300. Moreover, 200 charter yachts are available. (Note that The Moorings and Sunsail pay the standard 10 percent commission to travel advisors.)
  • About 80 percent of pre-hurricane airline capacity has returned to St. Thomas, and airlift to St. Croix now exceeds pre-hurricane levels.
  • Cruise ship arrivals are on the rise, as is the size of ships St. Thomas can handle. The USVI is looking to increase the efficiency of its ports and to enhance land-based shore
    U.S. Virgin Islands
    Fishing activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.)

    excursions. Charlotte Amalie is adding extra lanes to heavily traveled roads, and it’s beautifying city streets with new trees.

  • “We still have a ways to go,” said Boschulte, but “significant work has been done to both airports.”
  • Describing the USVI as a “mature destination,” Boschulte said, “we’re striving to freshen our product. We have to move beyond sand, sun, and beaches. For example, he pointed to the new museum on St. Thomas, the zipline, new water attractions such as St. Thomas Adventure Tour (kayaking), the many new restaurants run by quality chefs on St. Croix, and a long line-up of festivals, including the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience (April 4-7) and Virgin Islands Carnival (events in April through May 4).

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