November surge bolsters tourism after decline in October numbers


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ST. THOMAS - Tourist arrivals were down in October but up in November, according to the tourism indicators released by the V.I. Bureau of Economic Research.

In October, the total number of visitors fell by about 6.7 percent - or 10,342 - compared with October 2010.

The decline was attributed to a 10 percent drop in cruise ship passengers. The number of passengers and the number of port calls were lower than 2010.

The decrease in cruise traffic was tempered slightly by an increase in air traffic.

Air arrivals in October grew by 3.8 percent compared to the same month last year.

Hotel occupancy stayed level compared with the previous year at about 44.4 percent - 36.5 percent on St. Croix and 47.1 percent in the St. Thomas-St. John district.

Despite the lack of change in occupancy, revenues - derived from the 8 percent hotel room occupancy tax - were up by 3.1 percent.

As the territory's tourism season started to pick up in November, arrivals increased. According to the Economic Research report, total arrivals grew by 9.9 percent compared to the prior November.

The cruise sector bounced back by almost 10 percent. About 195,548 people came into the territory on a cruise ship in November 2010; that number grew to 214,985 one year later.

Air arrivals also increased - 15 percent on St. Croix and 7.9 percent in the St. Thomas-St. John District.

Hotel occupancy in November was at 48.2 percent territorywide, down slightly from 50.2 percent in November 2010. Looking at the year-to-date figures, 2.3 million people came to the territory in the first 11 months of 2011 - a 5.3 percent gain.

Tourism spokeswoman Allegra Kean-Moorehead said that level of growth is a good sign. According to a recent report from the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Caribbean region as a whole saw about a 3 percent gain in 2011 compared to 2010.

"So, we're actually pacing ahead of the region," she said.

She said the Caribbean Tourism Organization is projecting another 3 percent growth for the region 2012.

"So, if we continue our trend of being ahead of the region, then we can have a very positive outlook," Kean-Moorehead said.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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