Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: November 21, 2002 November 21, 2002 Share 1 -- SIX HOTELS on St. Martin are facing closure unless they get governmental financial aid, according to Philippe Thevenet, vice president of the Hotel Assn. of French St. Martin and owner of the island's Alizea Hotel. The French side of the island has 45 properties representing 3,500 rooms, a number that has dwindled from 4,700 in 1995 according to Thevenet. He would not disclose the names of the hotels that are in trouble, but cited government taxes, water and insurance costs, and employee wages -- which he said are in line with French but not Caribbean levels -- as contributing to the situation. Thevenet also noted that the government and business sectors provide little promotional assistance to the hotels and that most of the $1.7 million collected in room taxes annually is used for tourist office administration costs. THE BEST OF Barbados value-added program has been extended for travel between Jan. 3 and Feb. 15 on bookings made between Nov. 24 and Dec. 15. The peak-season version features programs at 21 hotels (40 were offered in the off-season); discounts at select restaurants, attractions and car rental firms; and up to $200 off air fare. The air discount can be applied on top of previously announced fare sales.US AIRWAYS Vacations is slicing $100 off vacation packages of four or more nights to Nassau and Paradise Island for bookings made by Dec. 18 using the GDSs or VAX Vacation Access. Travel is valid through Feb. 14. In a separate offer, US Airways Vacations' packages may be combined with the Bahamas/American Express Getaway special, applicable to bookings made by Dec. 22 for travel completed by Feb. 15. Clients paying with an American Express card qualify for rebates of $50 on a two-night stay, $75 on a three-night stay and $150 for stays of four or more nights.LODGEPODGE • The five-villa Cayo Espanto resort, on a private island off San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize, offers savings of $400 per night for its one-bedroom Casa Manana villa through Dec. 20. The discounted rate -- $695 per night, double -- includes a personal butler, a plunge pool, transfers and all meals and beverages. For details, visit www.aprivateisland.com. • Owners of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas have taken over the operations of the former Admiral's Inn in the historic Frenchtown section of the island's capital city, Charlotte Amalie. The 12-room inn, which officially opens Dec. 15, features a pool, sun deck and the Pointe at Villa Olga restaurant. Nightly EP rates are $99 per room, double, Dec. 23 to April 21. For reservations, call (800) 524-4746. • Happy first birthday to the 496-room Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, which reportedly had occupancy rates of 90% or higher and welcomed more than 30,000 guests in its first year of operation. For rate information, visit www.iberostar.com. • Construction has begun on the $100 million, 350-room Barbados Hilton International near Bridgetown. Work on the resort is expected to finish in 2004. • Dive-in movies will debut Nov. 27 at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Moviegoers can pull up a raft in the resort's quarter-acre pool to watch family-friendly flicks, complete with theme drinks and waterproof popcorn. • Accor, the French hotel company, assured agents that its hotels in the French West Indies (five on Martinique, two on Guadeloupe, and one each on St. Barts and St. Martin) are "definitely open." An earlier report from the company to the General Secretariat of the French President's Office, which had cited problems facing tour operators in the region, had been misunderstood, according to a spokeswoman. • The 100-room Sonesta Beach Resort & Villas on Anguilla has been sold by Sonesta for $10.4 million to Flag Luxury Properties, a New York-based high end commercial developer which plans to replace the resort with a 140-room property and an 18-hole golf course. • Sandy Lane resort in Barbados will open its second 18-hole golf course, called the Green Monkey, next month.PLEASANT HOLIDAYS, the newest tour operator entrant into the Caribbean market, offers air-inclusive packages valid for travel Jan. 1 to Dec. 20, 2003, at more than 70 resorts in Aruba, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and St. Lucia. For example, five-night programs to Jamaica start at $649 from New York, $675 from Chicago and $712 from Los Angeles. Rates are per person, double, and cover roundtrip air, accommodations, transfers and hotel taxes. The firm's brochure will soon be available to agents. Bookings currently are accepted by phone at (800) 448-3333 or through Sabre. The Web site is at www.pleasantholidays.com.THE JAMAICA Tourist Board appointed Dennis Morrison chairman. He replaced Bill Clarke, who chaired the JTB for less than a year. The JTB, meanwhile, has yet to name a replacement for director Fay Pickersgill, who is on leave and will step down Jan. 31.CONTINENTAL plans to begin service between its Houston hub and Grand Cayman, effective May 2, pending government approval. Flights will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays using Boeing 737-700 aircraft.PENCIL IT IN • St. Barts Music Festival 2003, Jan. 10 to 22, St. Barts. • Sixth Annual Abaco Art Festival, Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas. • Fun in the Son Gospel Spring Festival, March 13 to 17 and 20 to 24, Ocho Rios, Jamaica.