USVI Arrivals And Hotel Occupancy Reached New Heights In 2015
PHOTO: Overnight visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands increased 5.3 percent in 2015. (Photo by Brian Major).
Add the U.S. Virgin Islands to the list of Caribbean destinations that posted strong visitor arrivals in 2015. The territory’s overnight, land-based arrivals totaled 769,185 in 2015, a solid 5.3 percent increase compared with the 730,367 arrivals recorded in 2014, said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism commissioner.
The arrivals were driven in large measure by the addition of 27,000 weekly airline seats flying to the main islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John and in 2015, she said. St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport added more than 6,000 seats per week last year.
The 2015 season also proved successful for the territory’s hoteliers. Occupied room nights totaled 818,535 in 2015, a 65.1 percent increase compared with the 785,949 occupied room nights recorded in 2014 according to the Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research (BER).
“We’re very pleased with strong overnight visitor stays and hotel occupancy,” said Nicholson-Doty. “It tells us two things. Not only are we getting more visitors, but they are paying a higher average rate. Both of those things are very positive coming off a long period, post-recession, of building both occupancy and rates. The past year has been very good for the destination.”
In another indication of the destination’s strong hotel occupancy in 2015, BER also reported U.S. Virgin Islands hotel occupancy taxes totaled $25.03 million in 2015, a 10.9 percent increase over the $22.58 million recorded in 2014. The full hotels supported solid visitor spending in the territory as overnight, land-based travelers generated $922 million in direct expenditures in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2015 while cruise passengers generated $467 million, for a total of $1.389 billion.
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A successful tourism sector has significant implications for the entire territory, said Nicholson-Doty. “Certainly we want people to come to our destination. We think we have such unique creative offerings. But tourism also has to work for the people of the destination and the economic impact is often overlooked,” she said.
“For us in the Virgin Islands it represents 30 percent of our GDP. The impact of tourism on a destination speaks to the well-being of our people.”
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