One on One with U.S. Virgin Island's Commissioner of Tourism

Travel Agent chatted it up with Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Island’s commissioner of tourism, on Monday and discussed everything from the Oasis of the Seas' impact on the destination’s 2010 cruising numbers to the upcoming opening of The Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa on St. Croix.

Nicholson-Doty told us that, as of June, the U.S. Virgin Islands has seen an 8.2 percent increase in overnight arrivals compared to that same period in 2009— but it’s the cruise numbers that stand out as highly impressive. During that same period, the U.S. Virgin Island’s cruising figures have leaped roughly 16 percent, something that wasn’t actually surprising for Nicholson-Doty.

“We did know that we were going to have some good increases, mainly because we have the Oasis during the winter months and we were also going to be getting the new Norwegian Cruise Line for the summer months,” she told Travel Agent. “So we definitely expected some solid growth.”

Oasis, in fact, made calls every week from December to the middle of May before going bi-weekly.

Last year wasn’t as bad for the U.S. Virgin Islands as it was for many other Caribbean destinations, posting only a 2.5 percent decrease in overnight arrivals— which is very low considering some islands have reported upwards of 20 percent drops.

“I think that last year when everyone was looking at every single dollar being spent and the fact that no passport was needed here, definitely helped,” she says. “When you have a family of four traveling, it definitely can be a significant amount and I think they looked at us as a more affordable destination.”

In fact, families have flocked to the U.S. Virgin Islands so much that the tourism board didn’t even need to offer value deals this season, she says.

“We basically looked at trends and saw that the (tourism) business was coming back and that the hotels were even looking at slightly higher room rates,” she says. “So we didn’t really need to offer the value deals, which was very different from last year when we basically had the destination on sale from May to the end of the year.”

And more good news is on the way. In about two weeks, St. Croix could expect the unveiling of the re-branded Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, which will become The Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa on St. Croix.

“They have been working on it for the last several months and we’ve been given word that it should be ready sometime next month,” she told us. “That should be extremely positive for us.”