US. Virgin Islands governor, Albert Bryan Jr. and Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, thanked the American Airlines; last week, on their visit to the AA’s new headquarters in Dallas, for the continued support it has shown the USVI; especially throughout the Covid pandemic.
A statement released by the United States Virgin Islands Tourism Department, reported that the islands received vessels from the airline right throughout the year, especially as it began to boom as a stay over destination during the Covid-19 pandemic. Coupled with their smart health safety protocols, the islands manifested the governor ‘s vision of “keeping the territory ‘s airports open” while protecting lives and livelihoods.
The blow back of the USVI against the Covid- 19 pandemic
The call to this US territory is definitely beyond the sandy beaches and perfect weather. The USVI definitely saw a great boom in tourism. As other Caribbean countries were struggling to stay afloat with the rising Covid cases and steadily declining tourist activity, the USVI was riding a wave of success.
The islands, which have extraordinarily managed to keep their Covid infections below five percent and their positivity rate at 1,5 percent became a beloved spot for vaccinated Americans. Their custom-built Travel Screening Portal and no passport policy for U.S citizens made the islands easily accessible to tourist.
Tourism Commissioner, Joseph Boschulte noted; “Ease of access will continue to be our mantra as we position the territory and prepare for upcoming challenges and opportunities in travel and tourism.” Since the beginning of the year, hotels on the islands have been at 90 percent occupancy, which rose from the 43.3 percent seen in 2020.
US. Virgin Islands received increased flight capacity
The USVI has welcomed an average of 27 flights a day into St. Thomas and six into St. Croix, with a 20 percent capacity increased to the Twin City during the summer.
This marks a big step for the islands, whose tourist capacity continues to grow; especially after the financial devastation brought by hurricane Irma and Maria brought in 2017, where over 4500 jobs were lost and some hotels and resorts so greatly damaged that they still have not yet completed the rebuilding process, but this new found bounce back has the islands well on their way.
What were only 28 000 – 29 000 seats a week during normal seasonal travel in St. Thomas has escalated to 30 000 and in St. Croix, capacity of 7800 – 8100 seats a day is now at 10 000.
“We are a little ahead of where we were [high season, pre-Covid] and that is a very big mark for us”, noted Commissioner Boschulte, “so both districts are ahead of where we were in the best times pre-hurricane season, in terms of airlift into the territory, which is the driver of our economy right now because we have not had cruise ships”
The statement was released earlier this year before the first cruise ship hit the shores of the USVI in July.
“Traditional seasonality was disrupted in the US. Virgin Islands” noted the governor as he compared the winter statistic to those of the summer arrivals both in St. Thomas and St. Croix.
St. Thomas welcomed daily flights from New York and Philadelphia, flights twice a day from Dallas and thrice a day from Miami and Charlotte; while St. Croix received daily flights from Charlotte and twice daily from Miami.
USVI Covid-19 protocols
The protocols on the island remain much like those of any tourist destination. You can expect mask and distancing protocols in all public spaces including the airport and all recreational areas.
All travellers starting from the ages of five must first be registered through the USVI Travel Screening Portal, where their negative Covid tests will be submitted. Either the Covid-19 PCR or the antigen test taken 5 days before departure for the island from US territories and 3 days for travellers from outside the US.
All international travellers are required to produce proof of vaccination unless they are US citizens vaccinated in the USVI, whose proof can easily be retrieved through the Official Vaccination Record.
The USVI is still on the third stage of its reopening plan. Non-essential businesses may operate incompliance with the Covid-19 protocols.
All gatherings, both indoor and outdoor are restricted to 50 people, nightclubs and bars also to 50 people or at 75 percent seated capacity. While restaurants may have no more than six people per table, with an alcohol sale curfew of 23:00 to 08:00.
“As the world opens up, the availability of aircraft has become a challenge for small states and territories such as ours, so it is critically important to remain visible and strengthen our relationship across the sector.”