New Marketing Plan to Drive Bookings December to March
ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, October 24, 2008 – The Department of Tourism announces the implementation of 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:
1. 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 additionalindustry partners such as American Airlines Vacations, Delta Vacations, USAirways Vacations, Spirit Vacations, United Vacations and Liberty Travel, toname a few.
2. Enhanced Winter Escape Promotion
To address the fact that travelers are scaling back their winter plans andbecoming even more selective, the Department of Tourism has responded bycreating additional value for potential visitors during the winter season. TheDepartment has launched an enhanced Winter Escape offer that will provideadditional incentives to make purchases while on-island. Valid for bookingsmade through December 10, for travel between December 15 and March 31, 2009,the enhanced offer provides visitors with $300 in AMEX Travelers Checks witheach booking, in addition to a $50 credit on attractions and a $50 certificatetowards meals at on-island restaurants, and a coupon book with savings onactivities and attractions. The Winter Escape offer also features acomplimentary fifth night stay at participating hotels. The total value for theconsumer visiting the Virgin Islands for at least five days is more than$2,000.
Through December 10, when the booking window officially closes, theDepartment will dedicate significant resources to generate media coverage andinterest for the Winter Escape offer. In collaboration with its New York-basednational public relations agency, M Booth & Associates, the DOT willheavily promote the offer to top-tier national media outlets and selectpublications in its key gateway markets. Already, coverage has been generatedin national media outlets including The Washington Post, Toronto Sun andAbout.com.
3. Sales Team Initiatives
In an effort to get ahead of the competition on winter bookings, theDepartment of Tourism’s mainland sales offices will be dispatched to meetwith approximately 1,000 travel agents over the next 45 days to drive interestin the enhanced Winter Escape offer and will be promoting the offer at severalupcoming industry trade shows.
4. Travel Agent Incentives
To seed additional interest in the Winter Escape offer among the travelagent community, the Department of Tourism is offering a booking bonus of $50for each five-night booking to travel agents who book the offer for theirclients.
5. Travel Agent E-Blasts
The travel agent community will also be targeted via two e-blasts, whichwill be distributed to more than 92,000 travel agents through each e-blast overthe course of the next 45 days. Each e-blast serves as a supplemental channelto communicate the latest information about the Winter Escape offer and bookingbonus for agents.
6. Direct-to-Consumer Database Marketing
The Department of Tourism will also leverage its extensive database ofapproximately 10,000 consumers which have expressed an interest in travel tothe Territory to broadcast news about the Winter Escape offer. These databaseshave been gathered in connection with several strategic promotionalpartnerships conducted over the last year with high-profile brands such as theNew 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 Novemberfor a group press tour of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. Among theconfirmed media include Black Enterprise, Travel Weekly and The GlobeNewspapers. The centerpiece of the visit will feature attendance to the St.Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2008, which will draw hundreds of visitors toFrederiksted from November 19-23. Media will attend the headlining events andhave the opportunity to meet with select performers. Throughout the visit,media will experience all that the destination has to offer, including itsvibrant culture, Danish heritage and local restaurants and shops.
8. Air Capacity Announcement (targeting trade media)
The Department of Tourism continues to work proactively alongside majorairline partners to stimulate air capacity growth beyond the more than a dozendaily flights currently servicing the Territory. The number of flightsservicing St. Thomas has increased by 3 percent since May 2008, and St. Croixhas 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 marketsto promote existing flight options into the Territory. Simultaneously, thepublic relations team continues to work closely with key journalists in thetravel industry and travel trade communities to educate tour operators andwholesalers on the destination’s current air capacity and projectedgrowth opportunities through the coming year.
9. International Marketing Efforts
The Department of Tourism has identified several opportunities to strengthenthe Territory’s presence in key international markets, particularly withconsumers in Scandinavia, Italy and Canada. Among the planned incentives tovisitors from these European markets is the implementation of the Winter Escapepromotion. The Department also looks forward to welcoming journalists fromDenmark for a group press visit to explore and celebrate the U.S. VirginIslands’ Danish ancestry, as well as hosting a press trip specificallyfor journalists from Italy, both taking place this November.
This week, Assistant Commissioner Monique Sibilly-Hodge led a delegation ofhoteliers, including those from Holiday Inn, Bolongo Bay, Frederiksted Hotel,Carambola and King Christian, to Denmark to meet with key representatives todiscuss strategies for the coming year. With the destination’s culturalties to its European ancestor, Denmark remains a crucial market for the USVI.Approximately 8,000 Danish travelers currently visit the USVI each year. DeltaAirlines recently announced same-day flight connections from Copenhagen to St.Thomas. As a result of the new service, the DOT anticipates a substantialincrease 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 connectionwith cultural events and festivals offered throughout the islands, includingParadise Jam on St. Thomas and the Blue Bay Jazz Fest on St. Croix, as anincentive for travelers to visit the Territory in the coming months. Theseefforts include additional marketing in Puerto Rico to support the annual BlueBay Jazz Fest and Crucian Christmas Festival.
Beyond the initiatives outlined in the above 10-Point Plan, the Departmentof Tourism is aggressively studying and reviewing strategies to gain interestamong the group and incentive markets and small hotels, and in turn, enhancebookings through the winter season and beyond.
Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty commented, “We recognize thechallenges in the marketplace that increasingly pose a threat to thesustainability of our economy and tourism business this winter andbeyond,” and “we are committed to doing what we must to get aheadof the issue with the implementation of this strategic ‘10 PointPlan’ and boost bookings through a variety of marketingchannels.”
For additional information about the 10-Point stimulus plan, please callAllegra Kean-Moorehead, Director of Communications, at (340) 774-8784.
For more information about the United States Virgin Islands, visitusvitourism.vi. When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoyall the conveniences of domestic travel – including on-line check-in– making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a UnitedStates Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passportfrom U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entryrequirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the UnitedStates from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required forall but U.S. citizens.