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VIPA Greenlights Fee Cut for Fly the Whale’s New Route to Puerto Rico and Showcases Major Territory-Wide Construction Initiatives

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A Fly the Whale aircraft poised on the tarmac at Cyril E. King Airport, signaling a new horizon in regional connectivity. Credit: V.I. CONSORTIUM

At their recent assembly, the V.I. Port Authority Board of Directors took a deep dive into a myriad of pivotal topics ranging from expansive construction endeavors and fiscal reviews to lease agreement stipulations. A central point of discussion was VIPA’s active engagement in 21 transformative construction projects scattered across St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John, representing an investment exceeding $115 million. Notably, the $31.6 million Cyril E. King Airport Parking and Transportation Center is on the brink of unveiling its first phase to the public this April, marking a significant milestone in the territory’s infrastructural development. The board also turned its attention to crucial runway rehabilitation projects at the airports on both St. Thomas and St. Croix.

A groundbreaking resolution from the gathering was the board’s strategic decision to support Fly the Whale’s introduction of a novel daily service connecting St. Croix with Puerto Rico. By slashing user fees in half for this new route, in line with VIPA’s 2014 initiative aimed at fostering route expansion and bolstering regional connectivity, the board has reaffirmed its commitment to enhancing the travel landscape within the Caribbean.

The assembly also served as a platform for Executive Director Carlton Dowe to shed light on the breadth and depth of VIPA’s construction initiatives. With 21 projects underway, split between St. Croix (10) and St. Thomas/St. John (11), the over $115 million investment underscores a steadfast dedication to fortifying the territory’s infrastructure. The Parking and Transportation Center at Cyril E. King Airport is especially noteworthy, set to open its doors soon, in conjunction with ongoing runway rehabilitation efforts at the islands’ airports.

Chief Financial Officer Anna Penn presented a financial update, announcing an impressive operating profit of $1.8 million in the fiscal year’s first four months, which outstripped initial forecasts. This fiscal resilience is further highlighted by the completion of several budget items under their projected costs, reflecting VIPA’s sound financial management.

The directors also delved into commercial lease agreements, particularly focusing on the Crown Bay building impacted by a recent fire. Dowe noted the ongoing assessments by the insurance company, leaving the timeline for re-occupancy of the building still up in the air.

The meeting wrapped up with discussions on pending permit applications and construction schedules, followed by a closed executive session where amendments to the United Steelworkers Collective Bargaining Agreement were approved, showcasing VIPA’s forward-looking approach to regional development and labor relations.

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Best Travel Routes for Exploring USVI

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The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) offer a wealth of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and recreational activities that make it a premier travel destination. Comprising three main islands—St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix—each island has its unique charm and highlights. Here’s a guide to the best travel routes for exploring the USVI, ensuring you experience the best the islands have to offer.

St. Thomas: Gateway to the USVI

Starting Point: Cyril E. King Airport

St. Thomas is often the starting point for travelers, given its well-connected Cyril E. King Airport. Upon arrival, renting a car is advisable as it offers flexibility, but taxis are readily available too. Public transportation exists but can be unreliable, especially in the evenings​ (TripSavvy)​​ (Fueled By Wanderlust)​.

Must-Visit Attractions:

  • Charlotte Amalie: Explore this historic capital city, known for its Danish colonial architecture and vibrant shopping scene. Don’t miss Blackbeard’s Castle and the 99 Steps, which offer panoramic views of the island​ (Divergent Travelers)​.
  • Magens Bay: Relax on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, with its calm turquoise waters and white sandy shores​ (Divergent Travelers)​.
  • Coral World Ocean Park: Perfect for families, this park provides an educational experience about marine life, including an underwater observatory​ (Divergent Travelers)​.

Route to Red Hook:

Travel to Red Hook on the island’s eastern end to catch the ferry to St. John. The drive offers scenic views and takes about 30 minutes. Make sure to check the ferry schedule in advance​ (Fueled By Wanderlust)​.

St. John: Nature’s Paradise

Arriving at Cruz Bay:

The ferry from Red Hook drops you at Cruz Bay, the lively center of St. John. Here, you can rent a Jeep, which is highly recommended due to the island’s rugged terrain​ (Fueled By Wanderlust)​.

Key Highlights:

  • Virgin Islands National Park: Covering two-thirds of the island, the park is a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Popular trails include the Reef Bay Trail and Ram Head Trail, which lead to stunning vistas and historical ruins​ (TripSavvy)​.
  • Trunk Bay: Famous for its underwater snorkeling trail, this beach is perfect for both relaxation and adventure​ (Fueled By Wanderlust)​.
  • Coral Bay: Visit this quieter side of the island for a more laid-back experience, with quaint shops and local eateries.

St. Croix: A Blend of Culture and Adventure

Travel Options:

St. Croix, the largest of the USVI, is a bit farther from St. Thomas and St. John. You can reach it via a short flight or a longer ferry ride. It’s advisable to plan this leg of your trip separately to accommodate travel time​ (TripSavvy)​.

Top Experiences:

  • Christiansted and Frederiksted: Explore these two historic towns, rich with colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and waterfront dining​ (TripSavvy)​.
  • Buck Island Reef National Monument: A must-visit for snorkelers, this protected area offers some of the best underwater experiences in the Caribbean​ (Earth Trekkers)​.
  • Point Udall: Visit the easternmost point of the United States for breathtaking sunrise views​ (TripSavvy)​.

Driving Around St. Croix:

Renting a car is essential for exploring St. Croix. The island’s diverse landscapes range from tropical rainforests to arid plains, offering a variety of scenic drives​ (Fueled By Wanderlust)​.

Travel Tips

  • Timing and Planning: Consider the ferry and flight schedules when planning your island-hopping itinerary. Early reservations for car rentals and accommodations are recommended, especially during peak seasons.
  • Local Cuisine: Each island boasts unique culinary delights. Don’t miss out on fresh seafood, Caribbean specialties, and local rum​ (TripSavvy)​​ (Divergent Travelers)​.
  • Safety and Comfort: Always carry water, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes, particularly for outdoor activities and hikes.

Exploring the USVI through these routes ensures a comprehensive experience of its natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re hiking in national parks, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, or simply relaxing on a beach, the USVI promises an unforgettable adventure.

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Travel Agent Network Paves the Way for Remote Work and Collaboration in the V.I.

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The Wander Network Travel Agency, a fully woman-owned enterprise established in February, is inviting aspiring travel agents in the Virgin Islands to join its network. This opportunity includes access to extensive training and connections with key industry partners in hospitality and tourism.

The Wander Network’s mission statement highlights its goal of fostering entrepreneurship among travel enthusiasts. “We guide individuals on a transformative journey, helping them craft their own adventure as travel agents and embark on the exciting path of starting their own travel company. With personalized support, resources, and a vibrant community, we empower dreamers to turn their love for travel into a thriving business,” the statement reads.

Founder and CEO Shannon Kittner emphasizes the importance of collaboration in the travel industry, ensuring success for all involved. “We truly believe in setting the travel agents up for success, especially if they are brand new in the travel industry. We are here to guide them and help every step of the way. At The Wander Network Travel Agency, our travel agents are not just a number; we take time to personally get to know each one, learn what they like to sell, have one-on-one meetings, and guide them through their training,” Kittner said.

The network also offers a “travel agent career guide” on its website to help prospective agents understand the career before committing.

Kellie Greaux, vice president of Membership and Business Development at The Wander Network, is dedicated to supporting new agents through onboarding and ongoing processes like branding, advertising, and client relations. “Shannon and I are working on creating a company that feels like family where continuous learning and growth are fostered and encouraged. With almost 20 years of experience in Hospitality and Travel and Tourism, we bring our skills and connections to help fast-track the success of each agent,” Greaux said.

The Wander Network has developed virtual training books as a blueprint for agents’ travel businesses. Greaux noted the flexibility and freedom the career offers, allowing agents to work part-time or transition to full-time roles.

Greaux believes that having more Virgin Islanders in the travel agent industry can enhance the tourism sector of the Virgin Islands. “Who better to promote and sell any destination than its local people? The Virgin Islands are filled with rich history, and as a travel agent, you can share this knowledge to excite clients about visiting,” she said.

The Wander Network targets a new generation of travelers, with values centered on sustainable and cultural travel, respect for local communities, and creating unique experiences. “With a heavy emphasis on development and exposure of millennials and Gen Zers, we focus on crafting memorable in-destination experiences,” Kittner and Greaux explained.

Greaux encourages local travel enthusiasts to consider using a travel agent for their next trip. “Booking a trip can be stressful, and our agents remove that stress, providing great recommendations, unbeatable prices, and special offers through our preferred partnerships,” she said.

For more information or to join The Wander Network, visit The Wander Network.

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Frontier Airlines Launches Nonstop Flights from St. Croix to Orlando, Boosting Tourism and Connectivity

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Frontier Airlines, known as America’s Greenest Airline, has inaugurated nonstop service from Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX) to Orlando International Airport (MCO) as of May 25, 2024. This launch will be followed by the introduction of another route to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, beginning June 2, 2024. The airline has introduced promotional fares starting at $99 to celebrate these new services.

Josh Flyr, Frontier Airlines’ Vice President of Network Operations and Design, expressed enthusiasm about the expanded services. “With this new service to and from Orlando and San Juan, Frontier is pleased to support St. Croix’s valuable tourism industry and offer convenient, affordable flight options to local residents,” Flyr stated.

The Orlando route will operate once a week, while flights to San Juan will be available three times a week, enhancing both tourism access and local mobility. Flight schedules and additional details can be found on Frontier’s official website.

In conjunction with the new routes, Frontier has launched ‘UpFront Plus,’ an upgraded seating option providing additional leg and elbow room in the first two rows of their aircraft. This option ensures an empty middle seat for added comfort.

Frontier also highlighted its enhanced frequent flyer program, FRONTIER Miles, which allows customers to quickly accumulate miles at a rate of $1 equaling 10 miles. Designed with families in mind, the program offers benefits such as family pooling of miles, priority boarding, and waived fees for changes made at least a week in advance.

Promotional fares for the new flights must be purchased by June 7, 2024, and are valid for travel from June 2, 2024, through September 30, 2024, with specific blackout dates. These fares do not require a round-trip purchase and are available exclusively to members of the airline’s Discount Den program.

Reservations made under the promotional offer are non-refundable, except for cancellations made within 24 hours of booking, provided the booking is made at least a week before departure. Additional services such as baggage and seat assignments are available at extra costs.

Frontier Airlines’ expansion is set to enhance the local economy by improving air connectivity and offering more affordable travel options for both residents and tourists.

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