Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: August 25, 2005

IN A VICTORY for the travel industry, the State Dept. and the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) are expected to push back the Dec. 31 start date for a rule that would require Caribbean-bound U.S. travelers to show passports whenever they enter or exit the country. The same policy covering Americans returning from Canada or Mexico, which had been set to take effect Dec. 31, 2006, also was expected to be delayed. Although neither federal agency had acted by press time, industry sources told Travel Weekly that the deadline extension was imminent. The departments are expected to rule that the new policy will be directed at all passengers traveling via air and sea -- regardless of country of origin -- by the end of 2006. By 2007, those crossing U.S. borders by land would also be included.

SEVERAL TRADE GROUPS, including the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, the Travel Industry Association, the National Tour Association and the Student Youth Travel Association had lobbied for a delay in implementing the rule and extending the Dec. 31 deadline. Travel industry lobbyists raised concerns that comparatively few U.S. travelers have passports and that the rule would immediately hinder cross-border travel. When the announcement was made in April, the President asked [for the proposed rule] to be pulled back and reviewed, said a DHS spokesman. The proposal has remained under review since then, but it was never printed in the Federal Register, a procedural step that formally puts interested parties on notice and allows them to file comments that, in turn, are used to help formulate the final rule.

ALTHOUGH CHA appreciates the U.S. concern for its security, and we have no issue with that, according to Berthia Parle, president, CHA has steadfastly advocated that the playing field be leveled by introducing the passport plan to the Caribbean on Dec. 31, 2006, the same day it was scheduled to go into effect for Mexico and Canada. Meanwhile, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the CTO, said, We would be delighted by an extension because of the substantial negative impact the original dates would have on the economies of the Caribbean. We hope that the new date is sufficiently distant to allow full compliance without any economic hardship to our members.

LE PARADIS, a new luxury resort and condominium complex, has broken ground in Praslin Bay, St. Lucia, halfway up the islands East Coast, according to Kierron Dolby, managing director of DCG Properties, the development company. The 554-acre site, located along two-and-a-half miles of coastline, reefs, small bays and peninsulas, is just south of the Dennery fishing village and the Fregate Islands Nature Reserve. Phase one of the development, which will be operational by March 2007, will include a 232-room, four-star branded hotel featuring a spa; an 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman and managed by Troon Golf; and conference facilities for up to 600 people. More than 100 deluxe condo and residential units also will be part of the first phase. Phase two, meanwhile, will include a 40-bed, five-star boutique hotel with a marina and marina village. A spokesman said that U.S.-based hotel firms with worldwide recognition and branding are expected to be named shortly to manage the two luxury properties. A Web site at www.leparadisstlucia.com will be updated as the project progresses.

TAKEOFFS

" American Eagle will launch nonstop service four times a week from San Juan to Fort-de-France, Martinique, effective Dec. 15. Flights will operate in both directions Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, using 64-seat Super ATR aircraft. The flight will depart San Juan at 12:42 p.m. and arrive in Martinique at 2:47 p.m. The return flight will leave at 3:12 p.m., arriving in San Juan at 5:22 p.m.

" Continental Airlines will launch daily nonstop service on Nov. 17 between Newark and Ponce, Puerto Rico, which will be Continentals 26th Caribbean destination and third Puerto Rican gateway. Continentals Ponce service will complement existing Continental code-share service to San Juan via Cape Air, which offers three daily flights between the two cities. Cape Air also offers service to Mayaguez via San Juan. The new Ponce flight will depart Newark at 11:55 p.m. and arrive in Ponce at 4:45 a.m. The return flight will depart Ponce at 6:15 a.m., arriving in Newark at 9:15 a.m.

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