Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: October 11, 2001 October 12, 2001 Share 1 -- AS MANY AS 20 PEOPLE, mostly Americans from the Richmond Dive Club in Virginia on vacation in Belize, died Oct. 8 when 15-foot tidal surges, whipped by 140 mph winds from powerful Hurricane Iris, capsized their dive boat. The 120-foot Wave Dancer, chartered from Peter Hughes Diving in Miami, had sought safe haven in Big Creek, about 80 miles south of Belize City. Three of the 20 passengers and five of eight crew members survived the storm, which also destroyed thousands of homes in the southern part of Belize. Recovery and rebuilding efforts are under way. Tourism minister Mark Espat said the Belize Tourism Board has dispatched teams of rescue workers, including tourism police units, to the areas most affected which include Placencia, Monkey River and surrounding villages. For travel updates, visit the Belize Web site at www.travelbelize.org or www.belizeemergency.net. THREE KEY MESSAGES emerged from a recent strategy session in New York hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organization to formulate ideas to jumpstart travel to the region. The central themes were: One Caribbean for One America, which highlights special hotel packages, discounted rates and promotions on 16 islands; Caribbean Cares, which includes charity events and free stays for firefighters, police and rescue officers, and travel agent incentives and information on increased commissions. CTO's Board of Directors and ministers of tourism were set to meet this week in the Bahamas to discuss the tourism downswing following the terrorist attacks on the U.S.SONESTA BEACH RESORTS in Key Biscayne, Fla.; Anguilla; Aruba, and Bermuda boosted agent commissions to 20% for all bookings made between Sept. 24 and Dec. 15.THE BARBADOS TOURISM AUTHORITY and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association are sponsoring a hospitality conference Oct. 30 and 31 to support initiatives aimed at enhancing the island's tourism product. The conference is part of the Barbados Tourism & Hospitality Festival Oct. 26 to Nov. 3, a new food festival designed to redefine the island as the Caribbean's culinary capital.THE JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD reported that former chairman Adrian Robinson returned to the private sector as a marketing counselor. Trevor Riley, JTB's former deputy director of marketing, joined Air Jamaica as director of marketing, Caribbean.A CONTINGENT of 50 hoteliers from Jamaica converged on New York Oct. 5 as a show of support for the destination and the recovery efforts. The group, wearing "I Love New York" T-shirts, appeared on the "Today" show and "Good Morning America," donated Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee to a Midtown firehouse and joined in prayer and song in Union Square.THE CARIBBEAN REGION will benefit from widespread redeployments in cruise traffic made necessary by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Micky Arison, Carnival Corp. chairman, said cruise lines have pulled 15,000 to 18,000 berths out of European routes since the attack, with most of the ships redirected to the Caribbean for 2001 and 2002. Caribbean destinations closest to the North American marketplace will benefit the most, Arison said.SANDALS RESORTS chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart and archrival SuperClubs Resorts chairman John Issa will join forces with the Jamaica Tourist Board in promotional efforts in the U.S. Promotions could include packages in conjunction with Air Jamaica that feature stays at each of the firms' hotels. The government has allocated an additional $8 million for tourism marketing, bringing to $13 million the amount allocated the sector in the past two months.AMERICAN EAGLE will introduce three daily roundtrip flights from Bonaire to Aruba Oct. 15. The new service augments American Eagle's service four times a week from San Juan to Bonaire, launched in June. On Nov. 1, Nevis Express begins nonstop flights three times a day between San Juan and Nevis. Flying time is approximately one hour.