Travel Agent sat down with Beverly Nicholson Doty, commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Wednesday and learned that the destination saw a 10 percent average increase in hotel bookings from agents last year. Nicholson Doty told us the increase has a lot to do with the tourism board’s decision to beef up training for its sales team, which included an increase focus on direct contact with agents from phone calls to face to face meetings. Prior to last year, Nicholson Doty says there was a misconception by many agents and consumers that the U.S. Virgin Islands simply “weren’t exotic enough.” Because the destination is part of the United States, many assumed the destination was not full of Caribbean culture.
“Being included in the U.S. is great because of the accessibility, how easy it is to travel here, but it also confuses people,” she says. “Some travelers think it is no different that any other part of the U.S., that it isn’t Caribbean. So we had to change that.”
At an event in New York City Wednesday, Nicholson Doty is slated to officially launch a new U.S. Virgin Islands marketing campaign, also featuring a new logo. The increase amount of hotel bookings is a great sign for the U.S. Virgin Islands, evidence that it is branching out to other forms of travel other than cruises. Cruises are still the destination’s bread and butter with 1.7 to 1.9 million cruise passengers visiting annually, Nicholson Doty says. However, about 18 to 20 percent of those passengers come back to the destination and stay overnight at a hotel. “The cruises are like giant Fams for us,” Nicholson Doty told us. “They give us the opportunity to show off everything we have at once. And then they usually come back and stay at a hotel on one of the three islands.”