Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Jan. 29, 2008

DESPITE A SOFTENING in the U.S. market for travel to the Caribbean region during the first half of 2007, stayover arrival figures did rebound in the second half of the year for several destinations, including the Bahamas and Jamaica, a trend which has continued into 2008, according to tourism officials. The record-breaking attendance at the recent Caribbean Hotel Association's Marketplace 2008 event in Nassau attested to the strong interest in the region from both the private and public sectors. However, one message was very clear: the Caribbean region cannot ignore the competition that exists on a worldwide basis for the U.S. travel dollar. Hubert Ingraham, prime minister of the Bahamas, told delegates that "land-based beach vacations no longer are the sole province of the Americas. The travelling public has an increased buffet from which to select their destination of choice." Ingraham said that Caribbean hotel owners and operators "must ensure that our hotels are equipped with the amenities demanded and expected by visitors and that guests leave our properties believing that they have received good value for their money."

THE CARIBBEAN TOURISM DEVELOPMENT CO., a joint marketing and business development owned equally by the Caribbean Hotel Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization, will host the inaugural Caribbean Tourism Summit, set for June 21 to 25 at the International Trade Center at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. The event, which will replace the former Caribbean Week in New York, has been created by leaders of Caribbean governments, hotels and tourism officials and will feature a high-level conference focusing on investments and marketing, an exhibit and a gala ball, according to the CTDC. More than 1,000 leaders from 32 Caribbean countries are expected to attend the summit, along with U.S. government officials and members of the tourism and investment communities. A schedule of events can be viewed at www.caribbeantravel.com.

LODGEPODGE

" Divi Resort Group's Caribbean expansion plans call for an investment of more than $175 million over the next two years. The expansion includes the opening of the Divi Barbados All Inclusive Resort in 2010, which will be rebranded from the original Divi Southwinds Beach Resort in Christ Church on the island's southern end. The new $55 million, 410-room property, which begins construction this fall, will include four pools, five restaurants, an 8,000-square-foot conference center and a spa, as well as condominium units. Divi Little Bay Beach Resort in St. Maarten has completed renovations on 150 of its 210 oceanfront suites; all renovations will be completed by December. Meanwhile, another 52 golf-view suites at the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort in Aruba will be completed in December, bringing the total number of suites to 152; new units also will open at Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort in December; and suite renovations are taking place this year at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino in Bonaire.

" Couples Ocho Rios in Jamaica will close from April 1 to Dec. 15 for a $15 million renovation of the 59-year-old property, which opened in 1949 as the Tower Isle Hotel and was rebranded as Couples Ocho Rios in 1978. Upgrades will cover all aspects of the resort from the lobby to restaurants, accommodations to pool facilities. New features will be four suites and 16 guest rooms; a wedding gazebo; a pool grill; a spa with 10 treatment rooms; a dive pool; and a floating dock at Tower Isle, the resort's private island. Guests already booked at the resort during renovations will be protected at one of the three sister properties in Jamaica and will be entitled to two free nights on a return stay between April 1 and Dec. 15, 2009.

ROLODEX

" Lisa Hamilton, director of sales and marketing at Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Marriott Resorts in St. Thomas, has been tapped as the new president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association (HTA). The position had been vacant since August 2007 when hotelier Rik Blythe resigned the post. Prior to Blythe, Beverly Nicholson, the USVI's commissioner of tourism, had headed the association for several years. Hamilton has served on the board of directors of the HTA and chaired both the membership and marketing committees.

" David Thompson, the new prime minister in Barbados, appointed Richard Sealy the minister of tourism. Following Jan. 15 elections, Thompson's Democratic Labour Party seized power back from the Labour Party after 13 years in power. Sealy replaces Noel Lynch in the tourism post.

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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