Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Dec. 30, 2004

STEWART PULLS OUT OF AIR JAMAICA: Caribbean all-inclusive resort kingpin Gordon "Butch" Stewart, along with his Air Jamaica Acquisition Group (AJAG), pulled out of Jamaican flag carrier Air Jamaica. The government of Jamaica has assumed sole ownership and management of the carrier, which accounts for 51% of air traffic into the island; private partners, including AJAG, had controlled about 78% of Air Jamaica stock. All AJAG members of the board of directors and Air Jamaica Holdings -- including chairman Stewart and ceo and deputy chairman Chris Zacca -- stepped down Dec. 23. A new 10-member interim board appointed by the government to serve through June 30 includes Paul Pennicook, executive director of the Jamaica Tourist Board in Kingston. In an internal memo to airline staff, Stewart said "ongoing turbulence" in the airline industry had "imposed tremendous strain" on AJAG resources for 10 years, rendering its continued involvement "untenable." But Jamaican minister of finance Omar Davies said Stewart -- who financed most of the $27 million AJAG paid for a stake in Air Jamaica in a 1994 privatization -- agreed to invest another $20 million in the struggling airline for working capital and to write down debt. Davies also said the Jamaican government will back $25 million in loans to Air Jamaica to finance restructuring, with an eye toward attracting "equity capital from private investors."

SUPERCLUBS opened the 97-room Rooms, its highly anticipated continental-plan property in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Rooms is designed to cater to business travelers and leisure visitors looking for an affordable base from which to set off on excursions, according to resort officials. "We're keeping pace with the tastes of the North American marketplace, giving today's savvy, independent-minded travelers as many vacation options as possible," said John Issa, executive chairman. Rooms is being marketed as an affiliate brand of SuperClubs, similar to the chain's Starfish Resorts, also in Jamaica. The beachfront property, on Main Street in Ocho Rios, features four room categories; guest amenities include satellite TV, high-speed Internet access and an Internet cafe. Other amenities include a pool with a swim-up bar, a fitness center, a tour desk and two meeting rooms. Rates start at $94 through April 3, single or double, with a two-night minimum requirement. Agents earn 13%. For details, visit www.roomsresorts.com.

PACKAGE DEALS

" MLT Vacations pays 20% commission on air and hotel packages to Jamaica booked by Jan. 15 via www.worryfreevacations.com for travel anytime. Agents must use promotional code WF5326.

" The new Casa Colonial Beach & Spa Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic offers a three-night Vision of Love getaway, priced from $1,300 per couple that includes champagne, strawberries and flowers on arrival, accommodations, one beachside couples massage, and one dinner for two.  The package is valid for travel from Feb. 7 through 20; the all-suite property opened in November. For details, visit www.vhvacations.com.

" US Airways Vacations' new Spring for SuperClubs promotion offers all room categories for one price at SuperClubs in Jamaica, Nassau and Punta Cana. The three-night packages must be booked by Jan. 31 for travel April 1 through June 15. Rates cover roundtrip air, accommodations, transfers, meals, drinks, sports, tax and service charges. For rates and details, call (800) 455-0123.

LODGEPODGE

" The BodyHoliday at LeSport, St. Lucia, offers an early booking discount of $350 per person for seven-night reservations made by Feb. 28 for stays from May 15 through Oct. 29 in a luxury ocean view or higher room. Daily rates range from $275 to $363 per person, double; rates cover accommodations, meals, drinks, sports, treatments at the Oasis, hotel taxes and tips. For details, visit www.thebodyholiday.com.

" Riu Hotels & Resorts opened its 23rd hotel in the Americas region on Dec. 18, the all-inclusive, 379-room Riu Paradise Island. Riu also has eight properties in the Dominican Republic, two each in Jamaica and Florida and 10 in Mexico. The Riu Ocho Rios in Jamaica will open next November as the 24th Riu resort. For rates, visit www.riu.com.

" The Westin at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort on Grand Bahamas reopened for the holiday season, following renovations and repairs from the fall hurricanes. For 2005, the Westin offers its Dream Passport to Savings package that includes accommodations and savings on dining, shopping, resort activities and island adventures. For package details, call (866) 500-0277 and mention Promo Code: PAS.

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