As a headline sponsor of the upcoming Caribbean Charter Yacht Show in St. Thomas, the USVI Department of Tourism is aiming to showcase the region to a new clientele and play a prominent role in supporting the inaugural event.
We managed to get some time with USVI Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte to talk through the impact the CCYS will have on the region and what guests can expect from their visit.
“The Department of Tourism is a strong supporter of the yachting community and warmly welcomes participants of the CCYS in St. Thomas in December,” says Joseph. “The tourism industry is rebounding and shows like the CCYS are a critical part of our marine portfolio.
“The marine industry is an important sector to our overall tourism product and we look forward to marketing our vibrant charter yachting sector. As we continue to navigate the challenges the pandemic has presented, we are encouraged by the interest we’ve seen in the US Virgin Islands from this important community.”
The commissioner believes the pandemic has awoken many more people to the attractions of yachting and being able to determine when, where and how long you go for.
“The Caribbean Charter Yacht Show will allow us to show why the USVI is an excellent safe harbour for all marine travellers,” he adds. “We are always hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic will improve. It’s hard to predict with the variants. We just have to remain diligent - vaccinate, use masks, practice good hygiene and social distancing. We each have a responsibility to one another to get this pandemic under control.
“The organisers of this event were the first to hold a successful event last year. They worked closely with the Department of Health and the Department of Tourism and we look forward to the same this year.”
The USVI is one of the few regions worldwide to remain open to yachting during the height of the pandemic lockdowns, and Joseph believes the resilience and socially distant nature of the marine industry has allowed the sector to flourish despite the challenges of COVID-19.
“The territory had already begun to strengthen its marine tourism offerings when the pandemic provided additional opportunities to tap into the charter yacht industry, which serves a relatively affluent population,” he says. “We plan to increase marketing activities within the charter yacht sector and will continue to promote other marine businesses and services to this growing sector.
“Our work and outreach are already paying dividends. For example, The Moorings, one of the world’s premier yacht charter companies, established charter operations in St. Thomas for the 2021 charter season.”
This decision to stay open helped the USVI reach a larger audience, with increased interest internationally.
“The main market for the USVI has been from the US mainland but we have seen international gains, particularly on the marine side, and we were able to welcome tourists from other destinations that were closed. More and more people are recognising what we have is very special - you enjoy the Caribbean and benefit from the conveniences of being in the United States at the same time.”
The CCYS will give St. Thomas an opportunity to truly showcase the island’s heart and soul on a world stage, according to the commissioner.
“Food, music and dancing are part of the cultural fabric of the territory. St. Thomas is more cosmopolitan but it is still very Caribbean and that is what distinguishes it from other city capitals. It offers duty-free shopping and sophisticated dining options while Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, is a bustling harbour town full of character, restaurants, warehouse shops and historic monuments.
“A mere half-mile off the coast of St. Thomas, Water Island can be reached by a seven-minute ferry ride, allowing visitors to trade the bustle of St. Thomas for quiet relaxation, casual dining and island exploration.”
The downtown area of St. Thomas and the coastal esplanade has been redeveloped as a picturesque palm tree-lined promenade and cycling route and Joseph believes the beautification of the waterfront will make it more appealing for locals and visitors alike.
“It is also an economic stimulus for our businesses,” he adds. “It will generate additional dynamism to our foreshore. Yacht Haven Grande Marina is also an important part of our offering for visitors, locals and the yachting community. It offers exceptional dining and cocktailing in close proximity to beautiful yachts moored a few feet away.”
The USVI is home to three marquee carnival and festival celebrations annually, offering visitors multiple opportunities to experience the unique flavours of each island. In 2020, all three were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but upcoming festivals include the 69th Crucian Christmas Festival (December 4, 2021 - January 9, 2022) on St. Croix, the 70th Carnival Virgin Islands on St. Thomas (April 2 - May 1, 2022) and the St. John Celebration (June 26 - July 4, 2022).
Visitors can enjoy many activities and attractions; history buffs can explore forts, iconic landmarks and attractions such as Fort Frederik or Fort Christiansvaern on St. Croix, Annaberg Sugar Plantation on St. John and Fort Christian on St. Thomas while Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas offers dolphin and sea lion experiences in addition to SNUBA, Sea Trek and many other fun, educational activities.
Sailing, snorkelling and other water-based activities abound on all three islands and a visit to Buck Island Reef National Monument is one of the ‘must-do’ activities while visiting St. Croix. Travellers seeking more outdoor and adrenaline-pumping attractions can enjoy guided hikes through the Virgin Islands National Park, kayaking the bioluminescent bay at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve or ziplining adventures.
The region also offers myriad travel options with private jets and transfers easily arranged. “We are most welcoming of private jets and endeavour to make their entry and departure formalities as seamless as possible,” adds the commissioner. “These high-end visitors support a slightly different sector which caters to individuals seeking privacy and exclusivity.”
During the extraordinary events of 2020 and 2021, the territory has been grasping every effort to reimagine, refresh and reinvent their brand of tourism. “We are an American Territory that is a part of the Caribbean so the ability for US citizens to travel without a passport to the US Virgins Islands is a key selling point,” adds Joseph. “We also have the ability to influence policy on the mainland that is a potential benefit not just to the USVI, but to the Caribbean generally.”
The USVI was recently named Destination of the Year by the Caribbean Journal and Joseph is in no doubt about its USP. “The Caribbean has a rich, bold, vibrant and proud heritage that is evident in our unique culture, people, cuisine and celebrations. Our stunning natural resources, extravagant carnivals and festivals and warm hospitality make us one of the most desirable warm-weather destinations in the world.
“Alongside the BVI, the sister Virgin Islands cooperate across many sectors and help each other in times of need. There is a healthy dose of friendly rivalry of course!”
The hope is that the CCYS will deliver the message that the area, which has hitherto been known as a cruise destination, has far more to offer. “We will broadcast the idea that the size of your boat will not determine the warmth of your welcome in these islands,” says Joseph.
The USVI is in the Safer-at-Home phase of its pandemic response and to enter, travellers must use the USVI Travel Screening Portal. Further useful links can be found below.
Travel Advisory: https://bit.ly/2CChShf
Toolkit for Travelers: https://usviupdate.com/tool-kit-for-travelers/