Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Jan. 2, 2007

ST. LUCIA'S new minister of tourism and civil aviation is Allen Chastanet, owner and managing director of Coco Resorts' Coco Kreole and Coco Palm on St. Lucia. Chastanet previously served as the director of tourism in St. Lucia from 1991 to 1994, was with Air Jamaica for eight years and also served as managing director of the Island Outpost hotel chain. Chastanet resigned from his Coco Resorts' position when he was appointed tourism minister Dec. 19, handing over the reins to a management team headed by his sister Feolla. As tourism minister of St. Lucia -- the country that was elected to the two-year chairman position of the Caribbean Tourism Organization in October -- Chastanet also takes on that post as well, replacing former CTO chairman and St. Lucia tourism minister Phillip Pierre, whose political party was swept out of office in St. Lucia's recent elections.

ST. MAARTEN hopped on the passport bandwagon with a package offering an incentive to holders of new or renewed passports issued after Dec. 15. The St. Maarten Bucks program, which offers $100 in on-island "money" that can be used at participating restaurants, hotels, car agencies and retailers on Dutch St. Maarten, is valid through Dec. 31. St. Maarten "expects a healthy growth in visitors this winter, despite any inconveniences travelers had to endure as a result of the new passport requirements," according to Regina LaBega, director of tourism. The St. Maarten Bucks program "is our way of thanking the 'first-timers' and those visitors who had to renew their passports in order to visit us," LaBega said. For details on the hotels participating in the St. Maarten Bucks program, click on packages under the accommodations section on www.visitsxm.com. The new passport requirements take effect Jan. 23. All U.S. citizens entering or re-entering the U.S. and traveling by air between the U.S. and any points in the Western Hemisphere will be required to present a valid passport. For passport details, visit http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. For a list of other suppliers offering passport rebate promotions, click here.

LODGEPODGE

" Almond Resorts will open its 300-room all-inclusive Almond Casuarena Beach Resort on Barbados' south coast on March 15. The property is undergoing a $30 million renovation and expansion project that includes a 100-room addition, opening in early summer. Almond has two properties on the west coast of Barbados -- the 395-room Almond Beach Village, and the 161-room Almond Beach Club & Spa -- as well as the 238-room Almond Morgan Bay on St. Lucia's west coast. The 360-room Almond Smugglers Cove, its fifth resort (and second on St. Lucia), opens Feb. 1 eight miles north of Castries. For details, visit www.almondresorts.com.

" Island Outpost, founded by Island Records' Chris Blackwell, added the boutique-style, 18-hut Compass Point in Nassau, Bahamas, to its collection of five funky resorts that also includes Goldeneye, Strawberry Hill, Jake's and The Caves in Jamaica and Pink Sands in the Bahamas. For details, visit www.islandoutpost.com.

PENCIL IT IN

" The Caribbean Hotel Association's annual Marketplace, Jan. 13 to 16, Aruba. For details, visit www.caribbeanhotels.org.

" Caribbean Arts and Craft Festival, March 10 to 17, various locations in the British Virgin Islands, including Beef Island, Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke. For details, visit www.caribbeanartisan.net.

Caribbean Editor: Gay Nagle Myers

Phone: (201) 902-1924

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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