By: Ann Ruppenstein
While cruise ships were unable to visit its shores, the USVI kept the local economy afloat using other means. Over the course of the pandemic, the destination ramped up its efforts to attract the marine industry with companies like The Moorings offering charter trips across St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, and Water Island.
“We will continue to aggressively market to the marine industry,” notes Alani Henneman Todman, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Tourism, USVI. “With the help of one of our professional charter associations, we are now placing 100 anchor moorings around the destination so that the USVI can be a one stop sailing and charter destination. It will begin at 100 and increase to 250 as this project moves forward.”
Henneman Todman also noted that efforts are underway for the safe return of cruising, which saw an increase of 10.7% over 2019 for the first two months of 2020 before the pandemic hit.
“We’re working to make sure the destination has a plan so that we can open to cruise passengers and most importantly that we can welcome them back safely,” she said. “Right now with no cruise ships coming in, the air lift is what’s keeping us abreast during the pandemic.”
While the majority of flights are coming into St. Thomas, she pointed out that St. Croix flights are even stronger than they were prior to the pandemic. Currently, the USVI is in a yellow phase of reopening known as Safer At Home.
“We’re open to leisure travel, open to business travel, we do have curfews — all businesses have to be closed by 12, all liquor has to stop being served by 11,” she said. “You still have to wear masks and social distance but you now have the freedom of moving around and going to dinner and excursions and experiencing the destination within a certain time frame. The beaches are open.”
As for Canadian lift, Henneman Todman said talks were in place with a Canadian airline about launching service to St. Croix prior to the pandemic, and the destination is eager to improve connectivity once restrictions ease up in Canada.