Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: October 3, 2002 October 03, 2002 Share 1 -- SEVERAL CARIBBEAN destinations reported an upswing in U.S. visitor figures for the first half of 2002 vs. the same period last year. Hugh Riley, the Caribbean Tourism Organization's director of marketing for the Americas, said the increases were "an indication of the travel industry's resilience." Posting increases were: Barbados, 4.4%; Curacao, 6.9%; Grenada, 16.5%; Guyana, 22.3%; Montserrat, 31.8%; and St. Vincent & The Grenadines, 0.8%. ANTIGUA plans to launch a Tourism Development Corp. as a public-private sector partnership and set Jan. 31 as the proposed startup date, according to Prime Minister Lester Bird. Goals of the new group -- once funding is established -- include promotion of investment possibilities to increase the island's room count by 1,800 units, to bring the total count to 5,000 rooms by 2006, Bird said. He also seeks enhanced marketing, promotions, research and other efforts focused on the realities of post-Sept. 11 challenges. Quality control of the tourism product and expansion of cruise ship calls also would be TDC responsibilities. Legislation enabling formation of the TDC was approved in 1997; at present, a government-run Department of Tourism is responsible for some of these functions.AIR JAMAICA reduced its winter rates by 40% for Caribbeanwide tickets booked by Oct. 28 for travel from Dec. 27 through April 9. Discounted rates are nonrefundable and valid for roundtrip travel, subject to holiday blackouts. Through Dec. 15, the carrier also doubled its frequent flyer credits in its 7th Heaven program for travel in any class of service. Complimentary champagne and meals continue, according to Allen Chastanet, senior vp. For details, visit the Web site at www.airjamaica.com.AIR BYTES • Continental Airlines will launch nonstop Saturday service Dec. 14 between Newark and Belize with continuing service to Honduras, pending government approval. • Pan American Airways will begin scheduled service Nov. 3 between San Juan and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The service will include a one-stop flight from Orlando-Sanford Airport. • Air Jamaica will launch its second daily nonstop from Los Angeles to Montego Bay, Jamaica, April 10. The flight will depart at 7:30 a.m. and arrive at 3:20 p.m. The return will depart Montego Bay at 2:35 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 6:25 p.m.THE ARUBA CERTIFIED EXPERT Program, accredited by the Institute for Certified Travel Agents now is available online from the Aruba Tourism Authority Web site at http://agents.aruba.com. Agents click on "How to become an ACE agent" from the dropdown menu. The fee is $35 whether the agent takes the study course online or offline. Benefits of the ACE program include a $20 cash-back bonus coupon on the first Aruba booking; an ACE certificate; a client referral program through the Aruba Tourism Authority public Web site at www.aruba.com and the (800) TO-ARUBA toll-free number; as well as an annual trip.HURRICANE LILI, a category 4 storm packing winds up to 155 mph, is expected to make landfall today on the U.S. Gulf Coast west of New Orleans. The storm's path caused cruise lines in the western Caribbean to alter itineraries and temporarily substituting calls in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten for western Caribbean and Yucatan ports. The Cayman Islands, Cuba and Jamaica reported heavy rains; St. Vincent and Grenada had flooding and roof damage. An inspection tour following Hurricane Isidore's pummeling of the Yucatan Sept. 20 to 23 revealed no damage to Chichen Itza's ancient pyramids. All scheduled tours are now operating.LODGEPODGE • The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, will take the wraps off 48 new guestrooms and suites on Nov. 10. The units are part of the resort's new Club Level of accommodations. The resort plans to open a spa, salon and fitness center Dec. 23. • Rosewood Hotel & Resort's Spa at Little Dix Bay, on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, will open Dec. 15. Two beachfront villas will debut the same date. • SuperClubs' Suite Treat promotion for groups at Grand Lido Negril, Jamaica, includes upgrades, VIP transfers, 24-hour room service and unlimited golf at nearby Negril Hills Golf Club. The promotion is valid for new group bookings of three or more nights for 30 to 50 double-occupancy rooms. Groups must book by Dec. 20 for travel between Jan. 3 and April 14. For information, call SuperClubs at (800) GO-SUPER, Ext. 6632. • The Westin St. John Resort & Villas in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers year-round agent rates from $79 per night for one-, two- or three-night gardenview stays. The resort offers agents 50% off all room categories from Jan. 4 through May 31. For reservations, call (800) 808-5020. • Sandals' new $99 Champagne Express offer applies to selected flights to Sandals' three St. Lucia properties and to Beaches Turks & Caicos in Providenciales for new seven-night bookings made by Oct. 13. Flights are from Air Jamaica's Newark, New York (Kennedy) and Philadelphia gateways. Travel dates are: Philadelphia to Providenciales, Dec. 14; Kennedy to Provo, Dec. 15; Newark to St. Lucia, Dec. 1, 8 and 15. For info, call (800) 523-5585. • Tamarind Cove in Barbados, a member of the Elegant Hotels Group, reopened its doors after a recent enhancement and will pay 20% commission on new bookings for travel completed by Dec. 18. Agents must book directly with Elegant Hotels at (800) 326-6898. • Cotton House on Mustique in the Grenadines will debut a two-level beachfront spa when the resort opens for the season Oct. 29.CLUB MED St. Lucia, which closed last fall, will not reopen this winter as planned. A spokeswoman said the resort would remain shuttered because the signs of a big comeback in travel are not seen.DAVID ALLEN, Bermuda's minister of tourism, died Sept. 26 after a battle with cancer. Allen was appointed minister of tourism in 1998 and served on the board of directors of the Caribbean Tourism Organization when Bermuda was admitted as a member country in October 2000.PENCIL IT IN • Puerto Rican Music Festival, weekends in November, beginning Nov. 2, Old San Juan. • Aruba Certified Expert Convention, Dec. 5 to 9, Oranjestad, Aruba.