Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: July 1, 2008

PUERTO RICO issued a call to action to Caribbean nations to work with airlines to increase air access to the region through San Juan. Among the proposed incentives for the airlines are revenue guarantees; a $3 million coperative marketing program to promote new and expanded flights; landing fee reductions ranging from 15% to 45%; and partial recovery of startup costs for new airlines coming into Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's air efforts already are paying off, with 12 new routes with four weekly flights each to San Juan on JetBlue, Air Tran, Continental and Delta from New York, Boston, Newark, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, beginning in September. Meanwhile, the destination's Cruise Incentive Program, launched in 2005, has been extended through the 2010-2011 cruise season. It allocates $10 million annually for the development of Puerto Rico's maritime industry.

LEADERS from the political, tourism and investment communities and the Caribbean diaspora in the U.S. met at the first Caribbean Tourism Summit in Washington last week; the summit's focus was finding new ways to survive and even grow in a changing market in challenging times. Allen Chastanet, co-chair of the Caribbean Tourism Development Co., the joint marketing and business development unit of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel Association, called on the region to make a "quantum leap" in its business practices to adapt to the challenges. Steps already have been taken. Caribbean heads of state will vote on financing a long-talked-about regional marketing and destination branding campaign at the upcoming Caricom (Caribbean Community) annual meeting in Antigua on July 2. Other issues on that agenda include resource sharing, market diversification and initiatives to ease the pain of the loss in air service.

• The all-inclusive, 226-room Couples Ocho Rios in Jamaica will reemerge as Couples Tower Isle when its $22 million renovation project is completed in December. The new name is a historical reference to the resort's beginnings as a private island retreat and hangout for Hollywood celebs in the 1950s and 1960s. The property opened in 1949 as the Tower Isle Hotel, Jamaica's first year-round beach resort. Renovations include the addition of four suites and 16 guestrooms (all with ocean views), a wedding gazebo, a spa with 10 treatment rooms, a swim-up bar and a floating dock at the resort's private island.
• Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts joined the VAX VacationAccess online booking platform just two months after Sandals Resorts International added the two resorts in Antigua and Jamaica to its portfolio. Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts is being marketed as Sandals' new value-oriented, all-inclusive brand, welcoming families, couples, singles and groups.

• Continental will add a fourth daily nonstop from its Newark hub to San Juan in September. The flight will run through December, but the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. is in negotiations with the carrier to ensure that the flight becomes permanent.
• JetBlue will increase its service to San Juan from Boston, New York, and Orlando to take effect in September. Also this fall JetBlue will increase its service from New York Kennedy to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with an additional 10 flights per week. The carrier also will add six more weekly flights from New York to Santiago, Dominican Republic. The carrier currently serves Santo Domingo with daily flights from Kennedy and Orlando to Santo Domingo.
• Air Jamaica still allows passengers to check up to two bags in economy and up to three bags in Lovebird Executive at no charge, but the carrier implemented changes to its baggage policy, effective July 1. Baggage allowance for executive class is three pieces at a maximum weight of 50 pounds each; economy passengers may still check two bags, with a maximum weight of 50 pounds each. Bags from 51 pounds to 75 pounds cost $75 per bag. Sports equipment, such as golf bags and surfboards, no longer is considered standard checked baggage, and baggage fees apply. No excess bags are being accepted through Aug. 31 on Air Jamaica flights from Toronto to Jamaica and between New York Kennedy and Barbados, Grenada and Jamaica. Each passenger is still permitted one carry-on.

Caribbean Editor: Gay Nagle Myers
(201) 902-1924
[email protected]
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