By Cathy O'Gara on 19th December, 2012


US VIRGIN ISLANDS (December 19, 2012) – Air arrivals to the US Virgin Islands are currently at the highest levels since the mid-1990s, according to a report by aviation consultants retained by the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA).

Over the last financial year the USVI received the highest number of air passengers in almost two decades, report the Texas-based consultants Reynolds, Smith and Hills (RS&H).

Overall air traffic is up by almost double digits (9.9 percent) over the previous fiscal period, reported the company whose study covered the 2012 fiscal year (FY 2012), which ended on September 30, 2012.

At the Cyril E. King airport on St. Thomas (STT), passenger traffic was the highest since 1994 at 700,550, while the Henry E. Rohlsen airport on St. Croix (STX), has not seen such high numbers (224,672) since 2001.

The total number of passengers arriving at each airport was up by almost the same percentage, meaning that both St. Thomas and St. Croix shared equally in the traffic gain.

“On a nationwide basis, the U.S. economy remains relatively stagnant as recovery has not fully occurred from the recent recession. Unemployment is at higher than normal levels. The poor economy and higher jet fuel prices have caused national air passenger traffic to decline or be flat. This makes the strong increase in 2012 Virgin Islands Port Authority aviation traffic even more remarkable,” asserted the consultants.

“We welcome the findings of this report,” said Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who believes the Department of Tourism’s efforts to cultivate relations with the airlines to raise visitor arrivals in a difficult economic and uncertain aviation environment were paying dividends.

Projections for the 2012-2013 fiscal year show a 1.4 percentage increase in total weekly seats to St. Thomas from 17,989 to 18,246, while St. Croix’s weekly air capacity is forecast at around 5,219, a less than 10 percent decline over the previous year. St. Croix’s dip is mainly due to the closure of the HOVENSA oil refinery and the resulting discontinuation of the weekly Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta.

“Acting to maintain airlift and spur economic growth in the Territory continues to be our top priority as we enter a new calendar year,” indicated Commissioner Nicholson-Doty, who is cautiously optimistic about the sector as the winter season begins in earnest.

To bolster traffic to St. Croix, the Department has switched on the St. Croix Fantastic Flight 2013 promotion which features a $300 air credit along with a 6th night free incentive provided by participating hotels. The promotion is paid for by the Department of Tourism from specific funding allocated for the exclusive marketing and promotion of St. Croix.

The booking window is December 15, 2012 to January 31, 2013 for travel between January 27 and March 24, 2013.

Member of the Caribbean Tourism Organization