Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: April 10, 2007

HURRICANE SEASON FORECASTS have begun to roll out of Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Department, headed by veteran tropical weather researcher William Gray. Gray's forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season 2007 calls for 17 named storms to form in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and November 30, and that nine of those storms will become hurricanes, five of which will develop into major hurricanes (with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher) with a 74% chance of a major storm making U.S. landfall, compared with the average of 52% over the past 100 years. This forecast is similar to that issued by Gray before the start of the 2006 season, which turned out to a relatively weak and docile season, causing Gray to tweak his original forecast several times. Last May Gray's team forecast 17 named storms in 2006, including nine hurricanes, five of them major ones. In reality, the 2006 season was considered a "near normal" one by most counts. There were 10 named storms, five hurricanes, two of them major ones but none hit the U.S. Atlantic coast, only the 11th time that has occurred since 1945. The explanation? Gray said a late and unexpected warming in the Pacific Ocean called El Nino calmed the elements, which included shifting wind patterns in the Atlantic, which disrupted hurricane patterns. El Nino pretty much disappeared this past winter, setting the stage for hurricane-conducive conditions that could show up as headline-grabbers in the next few months.

NEW TAX INITIATIVES between the U.S. and the Netherlands Antilles mean good news for meetings and convention planners. The agreement allows U.S. taxpayers to claim a tax deduction for expenses associated with a convention held in the Netherlands Antilles to the same extent as a convention held in the US. The implementation of the Tax Information Exchange Agreement means that the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles -- Bonaire; Curacao; Saba; St. Eustatius; and St. Maarten -- are considered part of the North American area. (Aruba had previously been considered part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986 when it was granted a "status apart" and became a separate part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.) Expenses incurred while attending conventions, business meetings and seminars on the five islands are allowed as deductions according to the same regulations as if each of the five islands were a U.S. territory.

THE CLOSING DATE for Martineau Bay Resort & Spa on Vieques, a former Wyndham property which will debut as Starwood's first W Hotel property in the Caribbean in 2008, was pushed back to Aug. 5 from April 9. The scheduled renovations, which will total $65 million when completed, cannot begin until mid-August, according to Vieques Hotel Partners, the hotel's owners. The delay allows for the current hotel staff to remain employed until the renovation project begins.

YACHT HAVEN GRANDE, the new $160 million megayacht marina complex near the cruise ship piers in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, opened to fanfare and fireworks with more than 50 megayachts in attendance. The opening culminated years of planning and construction and erased forever the memories of Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 that demolished the former hotel and piers on the site. Phase one of the new complex includes a marina that can accommodate 50 yachts up to 450 feet long, three restaurants and 80,000 square feet of retail space with high-end shops such as Louis Vuitton, Coach, Little Switzerland and others. Also open are the Residences at Yacht Haven Grande, a complex of 12 three-bedroom/three-bath condominium units, each with two terraces and a plunge pool, priced from $2 million each. Island Global Yachting, a management company that is part of Island Capital Group, manages and operates Yacht Haven Grande as well as marinas in St. Maarten, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands, and Dubai. For details, visit www.igymarinas.com.

PENCIL IT IN

" 3rd annual Plymouth Jazz Festival in Tobago, April 27 to 29, Fort James/Plymouth Recreational Field. Scheduled musical performances will be offered by Elton John, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Earth Wind & Fire, LL Cool J, Beres Hammond and Heather Headley. For details, visit www.tobagojazzfest.com.

" Caribbean Week, June 9 to 19, New York City. Tropical music, food, fashion shows, entertainment, two Caribbean weddings and the 34th annual Governments of the Caribbean State Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria on June 15 highlight the week-long series of consumer-focused events and business meetings. The Caribbean Tourism Organization-sponsored event culminates with the First Annual Caribbean Beach Volleyball Tournament, where qualifying matches for the championship tournament will be played in Long Beach, N.Y., on June 16 and 17. For information, visit www.caribbeanweekny.com.

Caribbean Editor: Gay Nagle Myers

Phone: (201) 902-1924

[email protected]

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