2015_stxThe latest economic reports indicate that the summer tourist season in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 2014 was among the strongest in recent memory. This is good news for the territory, following a winter tourist season in which activity actually declined 0.9 percent compared to the same period the year before. The summer numbers, however, reveal a jump of 7.6 percent over the summer of 2013, bringing this year’s overall numbers to nearly 1.5 million cruise visitors and more than 560,000 stopover tourists, both of which represent 3 to 4 percent increases over last year.

As tourism remains the prime contributor to the USVI economy, this news is being met with much enthusiasm, and there are additional plans to expand the industry’s growth in the territory. Particularly since the 2012 closure of the Hovensa oil refinery, the U.S. Virgin Islands has become increasingly dependent on tourism as the primary driver of the economy. Whereas the tourism industry once employed about a third of the territory’s labor force, that number has now risen above 50 percent. Marketing efforts across the United States, the construction of new resorts and the addition of flights from Atlanta, New York and Boston all seem to be having positive effects on the local economy.

The U.S. Virgin Islands combines an important history, a booming sustainable tourism industry and the allure of duty-free shopping, all in a picturesque natural setting that makes the territory very attractive to potential tourists. The ease of travel for Americans, who don’t have to deal with a language barrier, passports or currency exchange, helps make the territory especially attractive to citizens from throughout the U.S. and its territories.

Although it’s well known that Christopher Columbus first landed in the Caribbean in 1492, fewer people are aware that he reached St. Croix just a year later. Additionally, the Jamestown settlers stopped off in St. Thomas in 1607 en route to Virginia. Remnants of this history and more can be part of the USVI tourism experience.

Preserving the character of the islands so they can be experienced, at least visually, in much the same way explorers did years ago is a true priority. To this end, there has been an increasing focus on ecotourism and sustainable tourism, which allow visitors to experience as much of the natural beauty of the USVI as possible.

Meanwhile, for those who want to shop, there are no customs duties or sales tax on tourism-related purchases, and U.S. citizens benefit from a $1,600 duty-free shopping quota. This allows travelers to enjoy many of the territory’s great shopping bargains, from cameras and leather goods to fine china and jewelry.

With all of the growth occurring in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it has become an attractive moment for businesses looking to open in the Territory, as well as for groups connected with the tourism industry. Entrepreneurs considering a move to the USVI are encouraged to speak with an experienced local business law attorney to ensure a successful relocation.

BoltNagi is a widely respected and established business and corporate law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.