Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: November 24, 2005

WITH FIREWORKS AND A FULL MOON as the backdrop, the largest [and most expensive] convention center in the Caribbean opened here Nov. 17, attended by government leaders, tourism officials, and a global invitation list that included several ambassadors, heads of state, international press and meetings planners. Before pushing the button to ignite the Grucci Brothers-type fireworks, Gov. Acevedo Vila forecast that the new $415 million Centro Convenciones de Puerto Rico will catapult Puerto Rico into a new era by broadening the islands tourism industry with increased group and business travel.

THE 580,000-SQUARE-FOOT center is able to host groups of up to 10,000 delegates and allows Puerto Rico to compete not only in the convention markets of the Americas, but also in the international markets, Vila said. Currently, the new Puerto Rico Convention Center has more than 70 events scheduled to take place through 2008, including the Caribbean Hotel Association annual Marketplace set for Jan. 15 to 17 next year. Vila expects the new facility will generate more than $300 million annually for Puerto Ricos local economy. To see all about the new convention center, visit www.prconvention.com.

THE NEWEST RESORT ON DOMINICA is the Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, a 55-acre tropical rainforest retreat on the southeast coast bordering Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the only UNESCO World Heritage Park in the eastern Caribbean. The resorts 35 elevated, oceanview cottages were built by unemployed farmers displaced by the islands banana crisis. They used wood and discarded stone from an old mining quarry. Owner/developer Sam Raphael said Jungle Bay is an example of how we can develop guest accommodations and not adversely impact the natural environment. For rates and details, visit www.junglebaydominica.com.

TAKEOFFS

* Continental Airlines launched daily nonstop service Nov. 17 between Newark and Ponce, Puerto Rico, the islands third-largest city and Continentals 25th Caribbean destination. On Puerto Rico, Continental also offers daily nonstop service to San Juan from Newark and Houston as well as daily nonstop service between Newark and Aguadilla. The new flight departs Newark at 11:55 p.m., arriving in Ponce at 4:45 a.m. The return flight departs Ponce at 6:15 a.m., arriving in Newark at 9:15 a.m.

* TNT Vacations will offer seasonal nonstop charter flights from Boston to Barbados on Sundays from Dec. 25 to April 23 with service provided by Xtra Airways. For details, visit www.tnt.com.

LODGEPODGE

* The 64-room Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada, which reopens Dec. 15 following a multi-million-dollar rebuilding project after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, will introduce the Nutmeg Pod supervised childrens program, the only one of its kind on Grenada. The complimentary program, open daily, will cater to kids from ages three and up. For details, visit www.spiceislandbeachresort.com.

* Westin will enter the Dutch Caribbean market with its 310-room Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, slated for a fall 2006 opening. The facility also will include a 99-unit condo complex, a spa, a casino, and meetings and event venues. Westin currently has Caribbean resorts in the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico and St. John.

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