The US Virgin Islands (USVI) Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte has reported that in an environment of deep declines in regional and international tourism arrivals, the territory has weathered the pandemic storm well, despite restricting leisure travel twice last year, from March through June, and then again in August and September.
While the Caribbean Tourism Organization reports a 2020 Caribbean-wide stay-over visitor decline of 65.5 per cent, down from a record 31.5 million stay-over visits to the region in 2019, USVI welcomed 415,749 air arrivals in 2020, representing a 35.1 per cent reduction year over year. Global tourism declined 73.9 per cent over the same period.
“We are incredibly thankful for the leadership of Governor Albert Bryan Jr, Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach, Commissioner of Health Justa Encarnacion and the countless Virgin Islanders — from our policymakers and the business community to grass-roots organisers — for their thoughtful actions, which continue to protect precious lives as well as livelihoods,” said Commissioner Boschulte.
Buoyed by a major uptick in airlift to the territory, which started over the Thanksgiving period and is being sustained over the ensuing months, Commissioner Boschulte reported that tourism recovery has been strong with the territory experiencing an encouraging start to 2021, anchored by robust visitor arrivals throughout the current spring break period.
Data from analytics and marketplace insights company STR show a 29.1 per cent year-over-year (2020 vs 2019) decline in the USVI hotel occupancy rate, compared to a 52.5 percentage drop in the region. However, average daily rates in the USVI climbed by 43.3 per cent compared with a 2.4 percentage increase across the Caribbean.
In spite of the positive outlook, the commissioner said the Department of Tourism will continue to strengthen relationships with industry partners to help position the territory as a preferred visitor destination in the Caribbean.
“While we are pleased with our performance to date, we recognise that we have our work cut out for us. We must continue to press on and deliver results for our industry and for every Virgin Islander…but not at the expense of relaxing adherence to public health and safety protocols such as wearing face masks and maintaining physical distance,” said Boschulte.
The territory recently announced that it will allow all USVI residents ages 16 or older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, making it the first United States jurisdiction to offer the vaccine to such a large majority of residents.