USVI Tourism Poised for a Huge Yearby Joe Pike /
From the return of an iconic hotel to the rebound of the cruise industry, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) is looking at 2023 as the year to bring tourism back to pre-COVID numbers.
Here are a few reasons why it could be done:
The Return of Frenchman's Reef: Five years after the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Maria, Frenchman’s Reef will welcome two new properties opening in the spring following a $425 million rebuild.
It will include the Westin Beach Resort and Spa at Frenchman's Reef and Buoy Haus Beach Resort.
Located above Morningstar Beach, the resort includes ocean-view pools, a Heavenly Spa by Westin and family-oriented activities and programming.
In addition, snorkeling trips and sunset sails depart from the resort’s dock for those seeking adventures.
The new Frenchman Reef. Photo: DiamondRock Hospitality Company
Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas: The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas recently completed a $100 million renovation. The property has 180 revamped rooms, four restaurants, three pools, as well as the Ritz Kids program where children can take part in a host of supervised activities while adults enjoy the daily rum tasting or a seaside massage at the spa.
Guests can kick it up a notch by reserving a Club Room or Suite where they can enjoy a private lounge that features complimentary food and beverage throughout the day as well as a personal concierge to arrange everything from golf outings to private beachside dining.
Lovango Beach Resort: In 2022 Lovango Resort and Beach Club opened on a private Cay in St. John, just a 15-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas.
The property is a famous day-boating destination home to a hotel, restaurant, and a trendy “village.” Guests can relax by the 70-foot infinity pool or enjoy a cocktail and oysters at the bar.
In addition, the resort hosts a beach party three nights a week. Close to the area, you can find Crescent Beach, which lies on the northernmost tip of the island, accessible by jeep or hiking. The beach offers views of the bird sanctuary at Congo Cay.
In 2023, Royal Caribbean will bring 440,000 additional cruise ship passengers to the US Virgin Islands.
St. Croix is expected to receive 140,000 visitors in 2023, an almost threefold increase over the current number, while St. Thomas, one of the Caribbean's most popular destinations, will see 300,000 more visitors.
In November 2022 Celebrity Beyond made her maiden voyage to St Thomas.
The Cyril E. King Airport in St. Croix. Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
Currently, there are 21 nonstop flights from the U.S. to St. Croix and St. Thomas, and there was a 21 percent increase in airlift to the USVI in 2022, compared to 2019.
In addition to American Airlines, there are nine airlines flying to the U.S. Virgin Islands, including Delta, JetBlue, and United Airlines.
Between 2019 and 2022, the number of departure seats increased by 35.8 percent.
The 2023 UberSoca Cruise
Combining the energy and vibe of a classic Caribbean Carnival with the extravagance of a luxury cruise, UberSoca is the largest Caribbean Music Festival at sea and a bucket list experience for those who love Soca music.
Beginning this year, the USVI will be the official destination sponsor of the UberSoca 2023 routes. This year’s routes will be in April and November.
The five-night all-inclusive cruise features non-stop Soca parties and more than 80 Soca artists and DJs from around the world.
The program also includes more than 55 events, both on board and in the destinations, including pre-party events, live concerts, themed parties, sports competitions, comedy shows, pool parties, panel discussions and more.
For the first time in its history, UberSoca will offer three cruises (one in April and two in November), making stops throughout the region, with a particular focus on USVI, where guests will get to immerse themselves in the culture and the islands.
Blue 11 & Indigo 4: Chef David "Benji" Benjamin is opening two new restaurants on the island, Blue 11 and Indigo 4.
Blue 11, the first one of the two, opened quietly at Yacht Haven Grande and became popular by word of mouth. With the idea of packing a lot of different flavors into one seating, the restaurant serves seven-, nine-, and eleven-course bites with the option of a wine-pairing dinner.
The menu is locally inspired with locally sourced ingredients including a range of seafood dishes.
Indigo 4 became an unexpected opportunity when space at The Shops at Yacht Haven Grande became available during the pandemic.
Its menu features Caribbean-inspired dishes, such as steak with coconut ginger mushrooms and warm green banana and horseradish salad.
Carambola Zipline: A new adventure attraction, Carambola Zip Line, recently opened in St. Croix. This zip line gives visitors a unique view of the island’s lush rainforest.
The tour begins with a 30-minute journey by safari bus all the way to the top of St. Croix. The tour includes a couple of stops for photos and some fantastic information about the island.
Following the Safari bus tour, guests will be dropped off at the starting point of the zip line tour, followed by three extensive zip lines to reach the famous Carambola Golf Course and cross the Carambola Valley. The zip lines are 518 feet, 2,473 feet, and 1,478 feet in length.
Tan Tan Tours: Vacations to USVI can now combine the Carambola Zipline adventure with a scenic off-road jeep tour around St. Croix with Tan Tan Tours.
The tours offer flexible options for individuals or groups, half-day or full-day tours offering stops for refreshments, lunch, and stunning views as you make your way across the island to the famed Annaly Bay Tide pools for a swim.