U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism to implement “10 Point Plan” designed to stimulate winter demand

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has the implemented a “10 Point Plan” to address the impact of a slow U.S. economy on the Territory’s tourism industry and stimulate additional demand for the winter season.

The 45-day stimulus plan will build upon the initiatives already outlined in the Department’s 2009 Annual Marketing Plan, and represents a significant additional commitment by the Department of Tourism to proactively and aggressively respond to changes in the Territory’s primary market for tourism.

Developed by the Department’s marketing team, the new 10-Point stimulus plan is designed to generate widespread awareness and interest in winter travel to the destination by extending incentives to travel agents and industry partners while offering the traveler additional value that encourages on-island spend.

Details of the new “10 Point Plan” are as follows:

Dedicated Advertising Campaign

As one of the driving forces behind the Department of Tourism’s winter strategy is a $1.5 million integrated advertising campaign combining radio, online and print placements.

In collaboration with Atlanta-based JWT advertising agency, national advertising will run over the next 45 days in high-profile online and print media outlets including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

The centerpiece of the campaign, developed in collaboration with the private sector, will be the enhanced Winter Escape promotion, offering $300 in AMEX Travelers Checks and a complimentary fifth night stay, among the host of value-adds.

Online advertising will integrate a call-to-action for consumers to book right away via Expedia, Travelocity, Bookit, Orbitz and Cheap Caribbean. Print advertising will integrate additional industry partners such as American Airlines Vacations, Delta Vacations, US Airways Vacations, Spirit Vacations, United Vacations and Liberty Travel, to name a few.

2. Enhanced Winter Escape Promotion

To address the fact that travelers are scaling back their winter plans and becoming even more selective, the Department of Tourism has responded by creating additional value for potential visitors during the winter season.

The Department has launched an enhanced Winter Escape offer that will provide additional incentives to make purchases while on-island. Valid for bookings made through December 10, for travel between December 15 and March 31, 2009, the enhanced offer provides visitors with $300 in AMEX Travelers Checks with each booking, in addition to a $50 credit on attractions and a $50 certificate towards meals at on-island restaurants, and a coupon book with savings on activities and attractions.

The Winter Escape offer also features a complimentary fifth night stay at participating hotels. The total value for the consumer visiting the Virgin Islands for at least five days is more than $2,000.

Through December 10, when the booking window officially closes, the Department will dedicate significant resources to generate media coverage and interest for the Winter Escape offer. In collaboration with its New York-based national public relations agency, M Booth & Associates, the DOT will heavily promote the offer to top-tier national media outlets and select publications in its key gateway markets. Already, coverage has been generated in national media outlets including The Washington Post, Toronto Sun and

3. Sales Team Initiatives

In an effort to get ahead of the competition on winter bookings, the Department of Tourism’s mainland sales offices will be dispatched to meet with approximately 1,000 travel agents over the next 45 days to drive interest in the enhanced Winter Escape offer and will be promoting the offer at several upcoming industry trade shows.

4. Travel Agent Incentives

To seed additional interest in the Winter Escape offer among the travel agent community, the Department of Tourism is offering a booking bonus of $50 for each five-night booking to travel agents who book the offer for their clients.

5. Travel Agent E-Blasts

The travel agent community will also be targeted via two e-blasts, which will be distributed to more than 92,000 travel agents through each e-blast over the course of the next 45 days. Each e-blast serves as a supplemental channel to communicate the latest information about the Winter Escape offer and booking bonus for agents.

6. Direct-to-Consumer Database Marketing

The Department of Tourism will also leverage its extensive database of approximately 10,000 consumers which have expressed an interest in travel to the Territory to broadcast news about the Winter Escape offer. These databases have been gathered in connection with several strategic promotional partnerships conducted over the last year with high-profile brands such as the New York Yankees, Samsonite, Yahoo! and Motherhood Maternity.

7. Supplemental Press Visits

As a means to enhance exposure with consumers in its key mainland markets, the Territory anticipates the welcome of top-tier national media this November for a group press tour of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. Among the confirmed media include Black Enterprise, Travel Weekly and The Globe Newspapers. The centerpiece of the visit will feature attendance to the St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2008, which will draw hundreds of visitors to Frederiksted from November 19-23.

Media will attend the headlining events and have the opportunity to meet with select performers. Throughout the visit, media will experience all that the destination has to offer, including its vibrant culture, Danish heritage and local restaurants and shops.

8. Air Capacity Announcement (targeting trade media)

The Department of Tourism continues to work proactively alongside major airline partners to stimulate air capacity growth beyond the more than a dozen daily flights currently servicing the Territory. The number of flights servicing St. Thomas has increased by 3 percent since May 2008, and St. Croix has recaptured all but 9 percent of its air capacity. Over the next 45 days, the Department will target consumers in its key gateway and secondary markets to promote existing flight options into the Territory.

Simultaneously, the public relations team continues to work closely with key journalists in the travel industry and travel trade communities to educate tour operators and wholesalers on the destination’s current air capacity and projected growth opportunities through the coming year.

9. International Marketing Efforts

The Department of Tourism has identified several opportunities to strengthen the Territory’s presence in key international markets, particularly with consumers in Scandinavia, Italy and Canada. Among the planned incentives to visitors from these European markets is the implementation of the Winter Escape promotion.

The Department also looks forward to welcoming journalists from Denmark for a group press visit to explore and celebrate the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Danish ancestry, as well as hosting a press trip specifically for journalists from Italy, both taking place this November.

This week, Assistant Commissioner Monique Sibilly-Hodge led a delegation of hoteliers, including those from Holiday Inn, Bolongo Bay, Frederiksted Hotel, Carambola and King Christian, to Denmark to meet with key representatives to discuss strategies for the coming year. With the destination’s cultural ties to its European ancestor, Denmark remains a crucial market for the USVI. Approximately 8,000 Danish travelers currently visit the USVI each year. Delta Airlines recently announced same-day flight connections from Copenhagen to St. Thomas. As a result of the new service, the DOT anticipates a substantial increase in Danish visitors to the destination in 2009 and onward.

10. Supplemental Support for On-Island Events

The DOT has also identified additional marketing opportunities in connection with cultural events and festivals offered throughout the islands, including Paradise Jam on St. Thomas and the Blue Bay Jazz Fest on St. Croix, as an incentive for travelers to visit the Territory in the coming months. These efforts include additional marketing in Puerto Rico to support the annual Blue Bay Jazz Fest and Crucian Christmas Festival.

Beyond the initiatives outlined in the above 10-Point Plan, the Department of Tourism is aggressively studying and reviewing strategies to gain interest among the group and incentive markets and small hotels, and in turn, enhance bookings through the winter season and beyond.
Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty commented, “We recognize the challenges in the marketplace that increasingly pose a threat to the sustainability of our economy and tourism business this winter and beyond,” and “we are committed to doing what we must to get ahead of the issue with the implementation of this strategic ‘10 Point Plan’ and boost bookings through a variety of marketing channels.”

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