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U.S. Virgin Islands Reports 2011 Visitor Numbers Climb 5.4% While Hotel
Occupancy Rates Declined to 52.1%, Down from 57% in 2010

By Aldeth Lewin, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. ThomasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 21, 2012--ST. THOMAS -- While the growth was modest, the latest tourism indicators released by the Bureau of Economic Research reveals that more people visited the territory in 2011 than in 2010.

Overall, 2.6 million people visited the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2011, a 5.4 percent increase compared to the 2.5 million visitors that came in 2010.

"The rebound in the annual cruise ship passenger arrivals that began in 2010 continued in 2011 and fuelled the increase of total visitors," the report said.

Two million people came into the territory on board a cruise ship, according to the report. The total number of ships that called at the territory's port was 698, about 2.6 percent more than the previous year.

"On the other hand, every month except January, October, November, and December, air visitors fell," the report said.

Overall, the territory's air arrivals dropped 1.8 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.

The bureau's report said the increase in air arrivals at the end of 2011 can be attributed to winter promotions from the V.I. Tourism Department and the arrival of new carriers, specifically charter flights from Denmark and Canada and Jet Blue.

The number of seats coming to the territory on major airline carriers increased by 5.5 percent in 2011 -- from 12,567 seats in 2010 to 13,623 seats in 2011.

Hotel occupancy rates were down in 2011. In 2010, the annual occupancy rate was 57 percent. In 2011, the rate fell to 52.1 percent. Total room nights occupied in 2011 were 928,489, compared to 1,042,168 in 2010.

The length of time a guest stayed in the territory increased slightly however, from a 4.4 night average in 2010 to a 5.4 night stay in 2011.

The Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund is financed by an 8 percent hotel room occupancy tax. The tax revenues are tied to both the number of rooms occupied and the room rates charged to customers. In 2011, the government collected $15.7 million in hotel occupancy taxes, down 4.2 percent from the $16.4 million collected in 2010.

The funds support the V.I. Tourism Department's marketing efforts to attract visitors to the territory.

The Bureau of Economic Research also released the tourism indicators for the first month of 2012.

Total number of visitors remained level in January compared to January of last year.

Air arrivals were up in both districts in January compared to the previous year -- 4.9 percent higher in the St. Thomas-St. John District and 11.5 percent in St. Croix.

The number of cruise passengers were down slightly, by 1.5 percent. The decrease in passengers likely comes from a drop in the number of ships calling on the territory's ports. In January 95 cruise ships called, 5 percent fewer than in January 2011.

The territory's hotel occupancy rate was up from 57.6 percent in January of last year to 59.6 percent in January. Also in January, the hotel occupancy tax rate increased from 8 percent to 10 percent. As a result, hotel occupancy taxes jumped from $1.2 million collected in January 2011 to $1.5 million -- a 27.1 percent gain.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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(c)2012 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR)

Visit The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR) at www.virginislandsdailynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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