The department of tourism continues to be very active in the promotion of the USVI as a travel destination in the US and Denmark mostly. The US market represented 93% share of inbound flows into the islands followed by Denmark due to the history shared. These efforts include a five year tourism plan expected to take form during 2014 with input and feedback from tourism industry experts from both public and private sectors, leaving room for frequent updates as the market changes.
Marketing strategies include partnering with sport franchises like the New York Yankees and the Miami Heat for featured performances during games with dances resembling carnival at the islands. In addition, the Tourism Commissioner takes active part of USVI´s delegations abroad to meet with travel and media partners in markets such as the US and Scandinavian countries such as Denmark.
Several airlines added new flights into the USVI, such as JetBlue which by the end of 2013 launched a non-stop flight from Boston to St. Thomas. Although it is a seasonal service during the winter, it operates for five days a week. Delta Airlines also added flights during the winter season from Atlanta with 15 flights weekly and from New York with a daily service. Delta will resume these services from both cities during the 2014 summer.
A major resort project was announced at the end of 2013. The Margaritaville Vacation Club will be located at the former Renaissance Grand Beach Resort in Smith Bay on St. Thomas. It includes a 262 unit resort with and investment of US$90 million. The property is expected to open by 2016.
After the major oil refinery Hovensa in St. Croix closed in 2012 leaving 2,200 people jobless, this resulting in the cancellation of a Delta´s weekly flight from Atlanta to St. Croix and a US economy relatively stagnant; the USVI economy is more reliant on the tourism industry than before. In 2012, the tourism sector employed one-third of the population; today tourism now impacts more than 50% of the USVI territory. The country must now generate additional tourism revenue. The Department of Tourism continues to invest in media to build destination awareness more focused on market intelligence; for example geographic efforts such as in Texas which provides more than 25,000 visitors per year to the islands. Other priorities include the Tourism Development Plan to be set by mid 2014 and continue to support efforts to waive visa requirements for CARICOM countries.
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