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The U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism Department Spends $250,000 For New
 Website; Previous Website, Which Cost $700,000,
Was Launched in 2001
By Aldeth Lewin, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. ThomasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

December 3, 2009 --The V.I. Tourism Department's website, which was first launched in January, has been recently upgraded to include a full Spanish translation and better resources for travel agents and group meeting planners.

The website -- visitusvi.com -- was updated Nov. 20, implementing the second phase of the website's design.

The enhancements include larger, eye-catching graphics on the Packages and Promotions page. That part of the site has seen heavy traffic since it was launched, but Tourism officials are hoping traffic will increase even more with a redesign of the page.

The upgrades to the Promotions and Packages page has made it easier for the department to add new destination packages and promotions to the site. The promotion currently featured is the territory's INNTimate Treasures package -- which promotes bookings at small hotels.

The meetings and incentives page also was improved to offer a better promotional material library, meeting planners guide and a group rewards page.

The newest addition is the Request for Proposal form which allows meeting planners to submit group event details through the website. The forms are then sent in real time to on-island destination management companies and properties which fit the meeting planners specifications.

The portion of the website targeting travel agents has also been enhanced.

To help travel agents sell the destination to potential visitors, Tourism has created and made available for downloading, a Travel Agent Kit. The kit includes promotional materials including a selection of images and video from all three islands and suggestions for how to put together a presentation to clients to sell the V.I as a travel destination.

The newly added Spanish translation function allows the department to reach a key demographic of visitors to the destination. An Espaniol icon placed at the top right corner of the home page allows users to instantly translate the entire site into Spanish.

Behind the scenes, Tourism has offered extensive training to its marketing staff so they can make monthly content updates to the site, according to the department.

"On behalf of the Department of Tourism, we are thrilled to unveil the second phase of visitusvi.com. These enhancements make information about the destination even more accessible, efficient and interactive than ever, for both new and returning visitors to the territory in addition to other key audiences such as travel agents and group planners," Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said in a prepared statement. "Given the rapidly evolving digital world, we recognize the importance of providing web content that is consistently relevant to online users."

Tourism spokeswoman Allegra Kean-Moorehead said that since the initial launch of visitusvi.com, the site has seen a 100 percent increase in monthly unique visitors. She said the previous website -- which the government spent $700,000 on and launched in 2001 -- was drawing about 30,000 unique visitors each month. The new site is bringing in about 62,000 or more individual visitors on a monthly basis.

The funding for the new website is included in Tourism's $11 million contract with advertising firm J. Walter Thompson. Their sister agency Studiocom designed and programmed the site.

The website cost $250,000 and the second phase and planned third phase is included in the total price.

The third and final phase -- scheduled for implementation in 2010 -- will include a booking engine which will turn the Tourism website into a tool similar to Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz. Visitors will be able to book hotels, rent cars and reserve a spot on a day sail without leaving the government's site.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-8772 ext. 311 or e-mail alewin@dailynews.vi.

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To see more of The Virgin Islands Daily News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas

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