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U.S. Virgin Islands’ Tourism Flourishes in 2023, Sets Sights on Global Expansion

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As 2023 draws to a close, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism (D.O.T.) celebrates a year marked by significant achievements under the guidance of Commissioner Joseph Boschulte. The territory has shown notable progress in key sectors, positioning itself for a promising future.

Robust Growth in Shared Economy

The year 2023 saw the U.S. Virgin Islands sustain its growth in the shared economy sector, generating an impressive $343.4 million in revenue. While this is a slight decrease from the previous year’s $360.53 million, it demonstrates the territory’s resilience. The hotel industry particularly shined, with an occupancy rate of 61.8% and average daily rates surpassing regional norms ($463.23 compared to $318.81 regionally). The Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) also consistently outperformed regional benchmarks.

Catalyst for Caribbean Tourism Surge

The territory has been instrumental in driving the Caribbean’s substantial tourism growth. International arrivals in the fourth quarter of 2023 are projected to be 39 percent higher than 2019 levels. The surge in extended stay visitors, increasing by 25, further highlights the territory’s appeal.

Optimistic Outlook for 2024

Despite previous challenges like pilot and airplane shortages in 2022, the forecast for 2024 is bright. The U.S. Virgin Islands has seen a significant increase in seat capacity from the continental U.S. to St. Croix (23%) and St. Thomas (21%), thanks to solid partnerships with major airlines.

Innovative Marketing and Sports Collaborations

The D.O.T. has broadened its marketing strategies, particularly in sports marketing. Collaborations with renowned teams and organizations, including the Boston Red Sox, New York Jets, Chicago Cubs, and Klutch Sports Group, alongside ambassadorships with athletes connected to the territory, have fueled a 21% increase in visitation from pre-Covid levels.

Cultural Vibrancy and Carnival Success

The past year was notable for the enriched experience of the territory’s Carnival celebrations. Increased participation and the expansion of Village Nights, celebrating local and Caribbean talent, have fostered cultural exchanges and attracted international attention.

Global Outreach and Market Expansion

The D.O.T. is actively pursuing re-engagement with international markets, with a special focus on Canada, Denmark, and Italy. Through integrated marketing and partnerships with global media, the U.S. Virgin Islands is being promoted as an ideal travel destination.

2024 Strategic Focus

Looking ahead to 2024, the U.S. Virgin Islands aims to enhance its profile in sports and entertainment, deepen cultural ties with the Caribbean diaspora, and expand in the marine and film industries. Key initiatives include:

  • Airlift Expansion: Initiating dialogues with airline executives to boost airlift from the U.S. mainland for winter 2024-25 and restoring international airline negotiations with Denmark, Italy, and Canada.
  • Cruise Industry Growth: Collaborating with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to increase cruise visits, create new experiences, and foster local employment.
  • Marine Sector Development: Building stronger relationships with marine stakeholders and attracting marine businesses to establish in the USVI.
  • Film Industry Attraction: Promoting the USVI’s stunning landscapes and unique locations for film productions.

Accolades and Recognition

In 2023, the U.S. Virgin Islands and its Department of Tourism were honored with multiple awards, reinforcing their status as a premier travel destination.

A Premier Travel Destination

As the U.S. Virgin Islands reviews its successes and prepares for future ambitions, it remains a favored destination for travelers seeking natural beauty, cultural richness, and warm hospitality.

For more information about the U.S. Virgin Islands and its attractions, visit here.

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Tourism

Best Beaches to Visit in the Virgin Islands

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The Virgin Islands boast some of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean, offering a mix of serene escapes and vibrant locales. Here’s a guide to the best beaches you should visit when exploring this tropical paradise.

Trunk Bay, St. John

Trunk Bay is one of the most famous beaches in the Virgin Islands, known for its pristine sand and crystal-clear waters. Located within the Virgin Islands National Park, it features an underwater snorkeling trail that is perfect for exploring marine life. Trunk Bay’s beauty and amenities make it a must-visit destination for beach lovers and snorkelers alike​​.

Magens Bay, St. Thomas

Magens Bay is a popular spot on St. Thomas, offering a mile-long stretch of soft white sand and calm, turquoise waters. It’s ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying a variety of water sports. The beach is also equipped with picnic tables, restrooms, and a snack bar, making it a great choice for families​.

Honeymoon Beach, St. John

Accessible by a scenic hike or boat, Honeymoon Beach provides a tranquil setting within the Virgin Islands National Park. This beach is perfect for kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. Visitors can also rent beach chairs and snorkel gear, making it easy to spend a relaxing day by the water​​.

Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas

Lindquist Beach, located in Smith Bay Park, is one of St. Thomas’s hidden gems. It offers a more secluded experience with clear waters and powdery sand. The beach is popular for picnicking and is a great spot to escape the crowds, providing a serene backdrop for relaxation​​.

Turtle Beach, St. Croix

Situated on Buck Island, Turtle Beach is renowned for its vibrant marine life and excellent snorkeling opportunities. The beach’s pristine environment is part of the Buck Island Reef National Monument, offering visitors the chance to see hawksbill turtles and a variety of colorful fish. This makes it an ideal destination for both snorkeling enthusiasts and those looking to enjoy a picturesque beach day.

Maho Bay, St. John

Maho Bay is a favorite for its shallow, calm waters and the chance to see sea turtles grazing on seagrass. The beach’s gentle conditions are perfect for swimming and paddleboarding, and its tranquil setting makes it a popular choice for families and snorkelers​​.

Hawksnest Beach, St. John

Located just a short drive from Cruz Bay, Hawksnest Beach is known for its accessibility and natural beauty. The beach is lined with palm trees and features a coral reef close to shore, making it ideal for snorkeling. It also offers picnic facilities, making it a great spot for a day trip​​.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

Although part of the British Virgin Islands, White Bay is a must-visit for those exploring the region. This beach is famous for its lively beach bars, including the Soggy Dollar Bar, where the Painkiller cocktail was invented. The stunning white sand and clear waters make it perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and socializing​​.

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

Cane Garden Bay in Tortola is a vibrant area known for its water sports and nightlife. The beach offers a mix of quiet spots for relaxation and areas bustling with activities. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, snorkeling, and local cuisine at nearby restaurants and bars, making it a well-rounded destination for both day and night activities​.

Brewer’s Bay, St. Thomas

Brewer’s Bay is known for its natural shade and excellent snorkeling opportunities. Located near the airport, this beach offers a quieter alternative to the busier tourist spots. It’s a favorite among locals for its serene environment and beautiful underwater scenery​.

These beaches showcase the diverse beauty and recreational opportunities available in the Virgin Islands. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, these destinations offer something for every type of traveler.

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Taste of the Caribbean Returns After Four-Year Hiatus

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The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has announced the much-anticipated return of the Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition this fall. This marks the event’s first occurrence since 2019, as it was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Celebration of Caribbean Cuisine

The Taste of the Caribbean is a premier culinary event that gathers chefs, mixologists, and culinary teams from across the Caribbean. These talented individuals compete in various categories, showcasing the rich and diverse flavors of Caribbean cuisine. The competition not only highlights traditional dishes but also innovative culinary techniques and modern interpretations of Caribbean food.

Event Details and Highlights

Vanessa Ledesma, CHTA’s acting CEO and Director General, expressed excitement about the event’s return, emphasizing its importance for the region’s culinary professionals. The competition will feature multiple categories, including best chef, best bartender, best pastry chef, and various team competitions. Participants will have the opportunity to display their skills and creativity, bringing together a blend of traditional and contemporary Caribbean gastronomy.

The event is also expected to feature live demonstrations, workshops, and seminars conducted by culinary experts. These sessions aim to provide educational opportunities for attendees, allowing them to learn more about Caribbean cooking techniques, ingredients, and cultural food practices.

Economic and Cultural Impact

The return of the Taste of the Caribbean is seen as a significant boost for the region’s hospitality and tourism sectors. The event attracts visitors from around the world, including food enthusiasts, travel bloggers, and industry professionals, all eager to experience the best of Caribbean cuisine. This influx of visitors is expected to benefit local economies, providing support to hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in the hospitality industry.

Moreover, the event serves as a cultural celebration, promoting the Caribbean’s rich culinary heritage and fostering a sense of community among the islands. It provides a platform for Caribbean chefs to gain international recognition and for attendees to immerse themselves in the vibrant culinary traditions of the region.

A Look Back and Forward

The Taste of the Caribbean has a storied history, with past events contributing significantly to the careers of many chefs and mixologists. The competition has helped to elevate the profile of Caribbean cuisine on the global stage, making it an event of great importance for the culinary community.

As the event prepares to return, there is a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement. Chefs and culinary teams are gearing up to showcase their best creations, and attendees are looking forward to indulging in the diverse and delectable flavors that the Caribbean has to offer.

For more details on the event schedule, participant registration, and ticket information, visit the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s official website.

Conclusion

The revival of the Taste of the Caribbean is a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of the Caribbean culinary community. It promises to be a spectacular celebration of food, culture, and talent, reaffirming the Caribbean’s status as a culinary destination. As the fall season approaches, all eyes will be on the Caribbean to see which chefs and culinary teams will rise to the top in this prestigious competition.

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Elmore Stoutt High School Student Named BVI’s 2024 Junior Ambassador of Tourism

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Adrianne Thomas, a standout student from Elmore Stoutt High School, has been crowned the 2024 Junior Ambassador of Tourism for the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Her selection follows a remarkable performance in the annual speech competition organized by the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission (BVITBFC), held earlier this month at UP’s Cineplex in Road Town.

The competition featured eight talented students from secondary schools across the BVI. Thomas emerged victorious, continuing the impressive streak for Elmore Stoutt High School, whose student Naomi Onwufuju secured the title in 2023. This win underscores the school’s dominance in fostering tourism awareness and leadership among its students.

In her new role, Thomas will act as an advocate for the BVI’s tourism sector, promoting the islands’ unique attractions and cultural heritage. Her responsibilities will include participating in local and international events, enhancing the visibility and appeal of the BVI as a prime tourist destination.

The event saw intense competition, with Carey-Ann McKee from Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary Division and Soccorria Telesford from BVI Seventh Day Adventist School securing the second and third places, respectively. The contestants showcased their knowledge and passion for tourism through their presentations on various topics provided by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

As the Junior Ambassador of Tourism, Thomas will also serve as a Brand Ambassador for telecommunications provider CCT, which awarded her a cell phone and a year of free service. She will represent the BVI at the CTO Regional Tourism Youth Congress in the Cayman Islands, scheduled for September.

The Junior Ambassador of Tourism program aims to engage the youth in the promotion and preservation of the BVI’s tourism industry. It fosters a sense of responsibility and pride in the territory’s natural and cultural assets. According to Clive McCoy, Director of Tourism, the competition plays a vital role in raising awareness about the opportunities and challenges in the tourism industry among the public, particularly the youth.

Thomas’s win not only brings pride to her school but also sets a high benchmark for future participants in the program. Her achievement highlights the importance of youth involvement in promoting tourism and showcases the potential of young leaders in driving the industry forward.

The success of this year’s competition and the enthusiastic participation of students underscore the growing engagement of BVI’s youth in the tourism sector, promising a bright future for the industry.

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