Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: April 24, 2003 April 24, 2003 Share 1 -- TOURIST ARRIVALS by air in 2002 to Caribbean destinations dropped 2.5% from 2001 figures while cruise arrivals rose 10%, according to recent stats from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Cruise growth was highest in the Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands, Curacao and St. Maarten. Destinations that fared the best among air arrivals were Barbados, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Grenada and St. Lucia. Visitor count also increased in Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba and St. Vincent & The Grenadines, but some destinations' figures are incomplete for the 12-month period. Although initial expectations for air and cruise arrivals in the first quarter of 2003 were high, the expected recovery "has been "derailed" due to the war in Iraq, erosion of consumer confidence and lackluster economic activity, according to CTO research. ANA, the first tropical storm of the year formed on April 22, more than a month before the official June 1 start of the six-month-long Atlantic hurricane season and its earliest start since 1992, according to James Franklin of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Experts have predicted a busier-than-normal hurricane season with 12 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes -- of which three will carry wind speeds of 111 mph or more. Last season's storm activity -- with only four hurricanes -- was below average.EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL to Cuba under existing people-to-people programs will be eliminated if a recent Treasury Department proposal takes effect. The Dept. of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces a long-standing U.S. embargo of Cuba, said it will no longer issue licenses for programs offered by licensed travel service providers, such as Washington's Transeair Travel. The firm carries more than 600 travelers a year under the People to People Educational Scientific License, according to the firm's president, Benita Lubic. If the ruling holds, only certain categories of travelers legally will be allowed to go to Cuba, such as journalists, government officials, researchers and people visiting family members. OFAC will accept public comment through May 23 on the proposed changes. The comments can be sent via the Web site at www.treas.gov/ofac or by mail to the Chief of Records, Attn: Request for Comments, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Dept. of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20220.SANDALS AND BEACHES Resorts' Ultra Selling Conventions, which showcases the resorts for U.S. and Canadian agents and features presentations from general managers and department heads from Sandals Resorts International, begin in Boston June 17 and wind up in Chicago on Aug. 20. The road-show tour includes Atlantic City June 19, Toronto June 25, Orlando July 31 and Las Vegas Aug. 15.RATES AND DATES • SuperClubs launched its Freedom Rates summer sale at eight resorts in the Bahamas, Curacao and Jamaica offering savings up to 45% on hotel bookings made by May 15 for travel from July 1 to Sept. 30. • Air Jamaica Vacations extended its Caribbean sale for travel through June 25 on bookings made by April 29. Packages are available from Air Jamaica's 10 U.S. gateways and represent savings up to 35% on air and hotel packages to nine Caribbean islands.PENCIL IT IN • Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism, May 15 to 19. The new venue is the Half Moon Golf, Tennis & Beach Club, Montego Bay, Jamaica, which was switched from Punta Cana Resort & Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic due to difficulties in securing air seats and other conference logistics. • Curacao Jazz Festival, May 30 to June 1, Willemstad. For details, visit www.curacaojazz.com. • 5th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, Sept. 9 to 12, at the St. Kitts Marriott Royal Beach Resort, St. Kitts.