MIAMI_At an off-site lunch during SeaTrade Cruise Global, the message delivered by the U.S. Virgin Islands Dept. of Tourism and government officials was clear: The U.S. Virgin Islands are open for business.
Back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 — Irma and Maria — left a wide path of destruction across the three islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. But officials pointed to significant recovery across the board.
Underscoring that optimism, they pointed out, was Spirit Airlines’ increased commitment to serving the islands, citing that Spirit has added a third weekly flight to St. Croix from Ft. Lauderdale.
Additionally, according to a new report from Airbnb, “St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is trending for spring travel among Airbnb guests.” In a release, they noted “St. Thomas took the sixth spot, with year-over-year growth in Airbnb bookings of 338 percent. The recognition comes just shortly after Airbnb named St. Thomas its top Caribbean destination for 2018, as it experienced a 600 percent increase in bookings over the previous year. ”
“The U.S. Virgin Islands looks forward to welcoming these travelers to the Territory, many of whom might be visiting for their very first time. Renting an Airbnb during a stay is a great way to see our islands and experience our local VI vibes,” said Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner nominee for U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. “
Major progress has been made toward restoration, which is tracked on the St. Thomas tourism website. They report 100 percent complete for power, beaches, the airport, sea ports and cruise arrivals. Flights are 60 percent back, and lodging 45 percent.
You can track progress for the other islands as well.
The Virgin Islands have always had a special place in our hearts, ever since Pam discovered St. John while in high school, thanks to a travel article in the local newspaper. She vowed to visit the island one day, 60 percent of which is set aside for Virgin Islands National Park.
After we met and married, she shared her dream of going there. So we saved our money and took a delayed honeymoon — one week on St. John and one week on St. Thomas. It was everything we dreamed of, and more.
On St. John, we stayed in a tent inside the park at the Cinnamon Bay Campground. It was like camping out in the jungle, only with a general store in walking distance. We were steps away from one of several world-class beaches on the island — Cinnamon Bay. Close by is Trunk Bay, recognized by many as one of the Top 10 beaches in the world with its powdery white sand and sparkling, clear waters.
One of our most memorable moments happened one morning when Pam was preparing breakfast at the tent site. She turned to get something and when she looked back, a mongoose snatched our eggs right off the plate. Didn’t see that coming!
After a magical week on St. John, we took the Red Hook ferry back to St. Thomas, where we celebrated our wedding anniversary. Ten years after our son was born, we took him to St. John to experience it for himself. This time around, we opted for a hotel room over a tent.
Storms can wreak their havoc, but they can’t take away the warmth and friendliness of the people who called the U.S. Virgin islands home.
PHOTO: Visitors to the Virgin Islands can expect a warm welcome
Story and photo courtesy of Gerry Barker