Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

*logoThe Caribbean region has been a success story this year for Pleasant Holidays.

"The Caribbean has become our third-largest destination, measured by sales and passengers, which are up double digits over 2008," said CEO Jack Richards.

Pleasant forecasts single-digit growth in the Caribbean in 2010, driven by sales in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, according to Richards.

New offerings for 2010 include Curacao and St. Barts, 25 new resorts and Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,200-passenger Norwegian Jewel, set to begin sailing next summer in the eastern and western Caribbean.

The tour operator re-entered the Caribbean market in March 2008 after a four-year hiatus. Richards described the 2008 offerings at the time as "our core group of islands and hotels, which represents phase one of our new package program."

Inventory then included 11 destinations and 89 resorts. That was expanded this year with six more destinations and 19 additional properties.

"The story for 2009 is that we had a great year, coming as we did off a small base,” Richards said. "Our programs have resonated well with the travel agent community, and we are thrilled with that response. The key to our success has been the growth in sales from the Midwest, the Southeast and the East Coast markets."

Weddings, honeymoon, anniversary and vow renewal packages are "pacing ahead for 2010 and have held up reasonably well during the economic recession," Richards said.

As far as pricing goes, Richards reported that the average Caribbean package price is only down 7% year to date, due to lower airfares and hotel rates.

New resorts for 2010 for Pleasant Holidays include Iberostar’s Grand Hotel Bavaro and the Hotel Bavaro, and Zoetry Agua Punta Cana, all in the Dominican Republic; La Concha Renaissance, the Sheraton Convention Center Hotel & Casino in San Juan, the W Retreat & Spa on Vieques (opening in February) and the Rincon Beach Resort in Puerto Rico; and Sandals Emerald Bay Great Exuma in the Bahamas, opening Jan. 22.

"We have tweaked our Caribbean program since 2008, based on comments from agents," Richards said. "Curacao will do well for us, and St. Barts represents a niche market which agents indicated they wanted."

Curacao properties include the Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino; the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino and the Avila Beach Hotel; St. Barts is represented by Le Sereno resort.

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