Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: June 30, 2005

THE ANNUAL CARIBBEAN HOTEL INDUSTRY CONFERENCE (CHIC), described as "re-energized and buoyant" by Berthia Parle, president of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), tackled the U.S. passport initiative and convened the first-ever heads of government forum at a CHIC conference to get the public and private sectors "on the same page." CHA, which stepped out of its comfort zone in the Caribbean to hold its first CHIC outside the region in Miami (at the Hyatt Regency Miami June 26 to 29), reported that delegates found it a much easier venue to reach. Consequently, CHIC 2006 also will be held in Miami with the Hyatt Regency again serving as host hotel. Parle also announced that CHA Marketplace will be held Jan. 15 to 17, 2006 at the new convention center in San Juan (set to open in October). This year's CHIC drew 1,110 delegates, up from 744 in 2004, representing a 30% increase; the conference theme this year was Caribbean Hospitality: the Roadmap to the Future. Other figures: 138 booths this year, up from 96 last year; 13 culinary teams versus 12 last year, and 242 hoteliers representing 146 hotel companies, "the highest number since 1999," Parle said.

IN OTHER CHIC NEWS:

*In a passionate speech laced with personal anecdotes and history, environmentalist, lawyer, founder of the Riverkeepers project and president of the Natural Resource Defense Council Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called on the Caribbean region to invest in environmental development that embraces all walks of life. Kennedys keynote speech opened the annual Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference. Kennedy pointed out that tourists visit the Caribbean not only for the scenery, sand, sun and beaches but also to experience the friendliness of the people they encounter. Kennedy said the job of environmentalists is to inject a long-term view into the political dialogue. Too often, in Kennedys view, politicians, economic leaders and corporate CEOs have short-term horizons, and he reminded his listeners that your job as environmentalists is to amplify the voices of the future generation and inject them into the political dialogue to ensure that the decisions we make today are not short-term that will end up penalizing the next generation.

* The Caribbean region stands to lose more than 188,000 jobs and $2.6 billion in visitor export earnings if an extension to the proposed U.S. passport initiative, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2006 in the region, is not granted. Caribbean Hotel Association president Berthia Parle reported on the findings of a recent study commissioned by the World Travel and Tourism Council, which measured the impact of the proposed regulations on travel by U.S. visitors to the Caribbean. CHA is asking that the playing field be leveled and the same introductory date of Jan. 1, 2007 -- that Mexico and Canada have been granted -- be extended to the Caribbean region. The 2007 date "will allow the region's tourism parties to better prepare. We cannot meet the January 2006 deadline. It physically cannot be done, and it makes the Caribbean totally non-competitive, " Parle said, adding that the new regulations will cause "significant hardship for several destinations that have grown to rely on an open movement of visitors."

JULY 15 is the launch date for Trinidad and Tobagos new Tourism Development Co., which will replace TIDCO (Tourism & Industrial Development Co. of Trinidad and Tobago) in the tourism arena. While TIDCO will focus strictly on industrial development, the TDC will manage tourism promotion, marketing and development and will be overseen by Howard Chin Lee, minister of tourism. The position of director of tourism, which had been in the TIDCO arena, now will fall under the TDC umbrella. Warren Solomon, who currently holds the position under TIDCO, has re-applied for the post in the TDC. TDCs chairman of the board is Charles Carvalho, CEO of Trinidad & Tobago Sightseeing Tours in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

CARIBBEAN ESCAPES Cooperative Marketing (CECM), which markets luxury travel to more than 100 resorts in 25 Caribbean destinations, debuted the first edition of its  "Caribbean Escapes" publication at the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC) this week in Miami. Glenn Harris, CECM founder and principal, said that Caribbean Escapes "represents a collaboration by more than 20 writers to showcase these upscale properties and provide travel information targeted at the affluent market." The $40, 400-page coffee-table book, which includes property and destination descriptions, color photographs and contact information, is available at a 50% discount to travel agents and industry professionals, and can be ordered on line at www.caribbeanescapes.com or by calling toll-free at 1-TO-MY-ISLAND (1-866-947-5263). The book is the focal part of CECM, which also includes the web site with a booking engine and a series of 15 television shows dedicated to luxury travel in the region.

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