DOT Targets Houston and Dallas to Boost Travelers’ Interest in the USVI

~ Meetings with travel agents, editors and meeting planners seek to drive summer bookings from Texas ~

 U.S. Virgin Islands (May 20, 2013) – A delegation from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism today concluded a week-long tour through Texas, which sought to boost summer travel to the Territory and also deepen relationships with key audiences who influence the booking decisions of travelers in the state. From Monday, May 13 through Sunday, May 19, more than 125 travel agents, 15 journalists, 20 top-selling Meeting and Incentive planners and several thousand consumers throughout Houston and Dallas learned about the newly launched USVI Grand Getaway promotion and all the qualities that make St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John an idyllic Caribbean escape.

“The USVI has long been a destination of choice among Texans, driven in part by the community of Texans living in St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John,” said Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty. “The USVI welcomes more than 30,000 Texans annually. In an effort to sustain and ultimately grow this number of overnight visitors, we made the decision to invest in this multi-city tour across the Lone Star State.”

The immersion kicked off in Houston on Monday, May 13, where members of the DOT sales team spent two days meeting with agents at several top travel agencies, including Excelcior Travel, Travel Leaders, Infinity Travel, Advantage Travel and Seavents World Travel. Simultaneously, DOT sales team members and the only member from the private sector available to join the mission, Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort Director of Sales and Marketing Joyce Griffin (a University of Texas alum), traveled throughout Houston and environs to connect with leading Meeting and Incentive planners at Ascent Performance Group, Helms Briscoe, Tropical CE/Pinacle Meetings, Conference Direct, and others. On the evening of Tuesday, May 14, 63 additional travel agents joined the delegation at a cocktail reception in Houston’s Galleria area to meet Deputy Commissioner Chantal Richards-Figueroa and view presentations by the DOT sales team and Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott representative.

The team hit the ground running in Dallas on Wednesday, May 15, where 54 travel agents assembled at a cocktail reception in the North Park area. The sales team continued their outreach to travel agencies throughout the rest of the week, paying visits to North Hills Travel, Tikki Trips, Colwick Travel, and several others. On Thursday, May 16, following meetings with airline executives and appointments with meeting planners at Fusion Performance Group, Galactic Performance Group and Maxcel, the delegation hosted a reception to strengthen relationships with additional Dallas/Fort Worth-based meeting planners at the Texas Rangers vs. Detroit Tigers baseball game.

During the tour, editors at several local lifestyle, news and travel trade publications made time to meet with Commissioner Nicholson-Doty and Deputy Commissioner Figueroa to discuss opportunities to highlight USVI story angles centered around recent developments, attractions, events and the islands’ unique cultural attributes. In Houston, media outlets included Houston Chronicle, Houston Family, Houstonia Magazine and Weddings in Houston. In Dallas, the team met with staffers at American Way, Celebrated Living and the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, May 13, St. Thomas’ own Chef Theo Gumbs visited the CW39 studios in Houston to tape a USVI-themed cooking segment on the network’s Eye Opener news program. Chef Theo showed viewers at home how to prepare his signature pick-up salt fish citrus cucumber salad and passion fruit colada. The segment is soon-to-air to an audience of more than 123,000 on CW39’s Houston and Dallas affiliates and will also be posted to www.eyeopenerlive.com.

Special focus was placed on outreach to African American, Hispanic, religious and Diaspora-focused publications throughout Houston and Dallas. In a radio interview on Christian Radio station 90.9 KCBI –FM in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Deputy Commissioner Figueroa discussed the importance of faith-based tourism and the stress-free attributes of a USVI vacation experience. In Houston, the Deputy Commissioner met with Sylvanus Donaie, publisher of One Love Caribbean newspaper where she updated him on ongoing promotions, Carnival events, airlift and other travel developments. At a meeting with Sonceria Jiles, publisher of the Houston Defender, she discussed promotional opportunities to increase the Territory’s outreach to African Americans in the Houston area, including the USVI embrace of faith-based tourism.

Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty explored the importance of the Hispanic-American market with media operatives Silvia P. Villarreal, publisher of the magazine Infórmate DFW; Ellie Byrd, of the weekly newspaper El Heraldo News; and Emmy-winning broadcaster Rebecca Aguilar of Wise Latinas Linked and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The Commissioner also interviewed with Barry Randall of the popular online news outlet Caribbean News Now!; Lewis Flanagan, III of the prominent African American newspaper, The Dallas Weekly; and Caribbean freelancer Anika Kentish who is a post graduate student in Texas. The delegation also connected with editors at Hispanic Meetings & Travel and La Mode Dallas during the tour.

The Texas tour culminated with a lively, two-day cultural event at Stonebriar Center Mall in Frisco – an affluent, rapidly growing suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth. Carnival dancers, moko jumbie performers and a steel pan player wowed hundreds of shoppers with their talents on Saturday, May 18th and Sunday, May 19th. Throughout the event’s duration, shoppers eagerly approached the USVI display to have their photos taken against the tropical background and enter the USVI Grand Getaway Sweepstakes for their chance to win a vacation for two to St. Thomas with accommodations at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott. The two-day sweepstakes was themed after the DOT’s recently launched USVI Grand Getaway promotion, which was actively plugged throughout the week’s travel agent, meeting planner, and editor meetings, and mentioned during Chef Theo’s appearance on CW39’s Eye Opener program. The promotion, which offers travelers savings of more than $1,000, is available through bookings made using the code GG13 on VisitUSVI.com through June 15, 2013, for travel between June 1 and September 30, 2013.

Several Virgin Islanders also visited the mall over the weekend to admire the cultural display which evoked nostalgic memories of life in the Territory. Many were encouraged and heartened by the Department of Tourism’s outreach through the Ambassador’s program. The Ambassador’s initiative, aimed at Virgin Islanders living on the mainland, has stimulated active involvement in the Territory’s tourism promotion efforts.

A robust advertising campaign in Houston and Dallas ensured that the USVI Grand Getaway offer and the mall activities were heavily marketed in the weeks leading up to and during the Stonebriar Center Mall event. From May 15 through June 2, a total of 250 spots are airing across Cumulus Radio’s 104.1 KRBE (Houston) and 96.3 KSCS FM (Dallas). Additionally, Dallas-based i93 Hits KLIF-FM and 96.3 KSCS hosted USVI trip giveaways on their websites and at the Stonebriar Center Mall, where they set up remote stations near the USVI display and distributed prizes to shoppers such as CDs, concert tickets and admissions to local attractions.

During the same period, four digital bulletins displaying the bookable offer stand prominently along Dallas’ highways. Ad buys in local newspapers ensured that the news reached readers of Dallas Weekly, Dallas Morning news, Denton Record Chronicle, McKinney Courier-Gazette, Keller Citizen, Southlake Journal and Colleyville/Grapevine Courier. Within the mall, shoppers in every wing were alerted about the island festivities taking place in the concourse between Dillard’s and Sears, thanks to 14 digital displays, nine backlit dioramas, 38 food court clings, four backboards located along the in-mall ice rink, 12 floor-graphics, 10 elevator clings, nine standing displays and a digital billboard with rotating signage.

 

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Member of the Caribbean Tourism Organization

 

Photo #1 Caption: Carnival dancers teach children at the Stonebriar Centre Mall how to dance USVI-style

Photo #2 Caption: Commissioner Nicholson-Doty welcomes Dallas-area travel agents to USVI reception

Photo #3 Caption: USVI signage was seen prominently throughout the Stonebriar Centre Mall

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Contact:        Allegra Kean-Moorehead

Director of Communications

(340) 774-8784 ext. 2234

akmoorehead@usvitourism.vi