Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Dec. 23, 2004

SANDALS RESORTS launched a multimillion-dollar rebranding initiative designed to redefine the firm's all-inclusive position "in a crowded marketplace," according to chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart. With many resort companies operating under the all-inclusive banner, Stewart said, the label has left consumers with price as the sole basis of comparison. "Sandals will never aim to be the cheapest resort chain on the block," he said. The rebranding campaign "focuses on the quality of experiences for couples at our resorts. At its heart, the new campaign is about value. We know our customers will not compromise on the quality of their precious vacation time." Campaign components include: new ads, billboards and collateral materials that include a 192-page brochure; newly branded Red Lane Spas that offer special couples' treatments; and the launch of the Butler Service next month in the top-suite category at Sandals and Beaches Resorts.

LODGEPODGE

" Viva Wyndham Resorts' eighth property in its portfolio and its fifth in the Dominican Republic opened this month as the Viva Wyndham Samana on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic following a remodeling and expansion project. The 218-room, all-inclusive resort includes a Kids' Club, three restaurants, a disco and a fitness center. For details, visit   www.vivawyndhamresorts.com.

" The Ritz Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino is up for sale again. Credit Suisse First Boston, its current owners, purchased the 416-room property in 2003 when the previous owner declared bankruptcy. Sources said a deal was "very close." Ritz-Carlton will retain its long-term management contract as before.

" The 58-year-old Buccaneer Resort on St. Croix completed a $10 million renovation that included a redo of its 138 guest rooms, restaurants, the Hideaway Spa, historic buildings and public areas. For rates and packages call (800) 255-3881.

TAKEOFFS

" United's winter schedule to Aruba includes daily service from Chicago O'Hare and Saturday service from Washington Dulles; to Montego Bay, weekend flights from Chicago; to San Juan, eight weekly flights from Chicago, daily from Dulles; to Punta Cana, four weekly flights from Chicago; to St. Maarten, Saturday service from Chicago; to St. Thomas, weekend service from Chicago and Dulles.

" Air Jamaica will suspend its daily nonstop service to Antigua from New York JFK on Jan. 10. The move, which also affects flights between Montego Bay and Antigua, is in line with the carrier's strategic plan to reduce annual operating costs by $50 million in the face of record-high fuel prices.

" US Airways launched nonstop Saturday service from Charlotte, N.C. to George Town, Exuma. The carrier also serves Grand Bahama Island, Marsh Harbour, North Eleuthera and Nassau in the Bahamas.

PENCIL IT IN

" Caribbean Hotel Association's Marketplace, Jan. 9 to 11, Half Moon, Montego Bay. For the schedule of events, visit www.caribbeanhotels.org.

" Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, Jan. 27 to 29, Montego Bay. Headliners include Norah Jones, Roberta Flack, Jimmy Cliff, Julio Iglesias, Dionne Warwick and Boyz II Men. Air Jamaica Vacations' all-inclusive three-night packages from JFK, Newark or Philadelphia at the Sunset Beach Resort & Spa start at $899 per person, double, including concert tickets. Call (800) 622-3009 to book.

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