Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Oct. 23, 2007

A CALL TO ARMS to embrace the concept of one Caribbean region with the goal to becoming the premier tourism destination in the world was the message sounded by Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and Allen Chastanet, CTO chairman, to the more than 630 delegates attending the opening ceremony of the 30th Annual Caribbean Tourism Conference Oct. 21 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. Delegates comprised of Caribbean tourism ministers and officials, hotels, cruise lines, travel agents, tour operators, strategic partners and media representatives heard an optimistic message for the industry's future growth, but also were challenged by both Vanderpool-Wallace and Chastanet to help continue the development of the tourism sector. "Let us take what we do in the name of our individual countries and put it aside and instead let us begin thinking about what is best for the entire Caribbean." said Vanderpool-Wallace. The key to a successful tourism product for the region is the design of plans "that understand both the perspective of the Caribbean people and the perspective of our customers. We don't want to build walls that impede our customers from experiencing our region, but instead speak with one voice and build a bridge to our customers," said Chastanet. Terestella Gonzalez Denton, the PRTC's executive director, said that the conference "is the chance to unify for a common regional perspective. We feel certain that if we must face an increasingly competitive global market, we must face it together." The proceedings of the conference are being streamed live at www.insidethecaribbean.com and at www.onecaribbean.org.

CHASTANET also said that the countries of the Caribbean region are tied to one another in terms of air space, air lift and marketing. He pointed to the creation last year of the Caribbean Tourism Development Council, a joint effort of the CTO and the Caribbean Hotel Association, and said that recent meetings with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association could lead "to a tripartite agreement within six months of the three organizations, speaking with one voice on the future of one Caribbean region." Regarding the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Chastanet said that the passport requirements "have affected the whole of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where passports are not required of U.S. citizens. The consequences of the WHTI on any one nation have consequences on all us."

LODGEPODGE

" The 248-room La Concha, A Renaissance Resort, located in the Condado section of San Juan, will open on Dec. 8, following a massive renovation of the 50-year-old property. A second phase of condominium rooms, now under construction, is scheduled to open in 2009.  Rooms feature iPod/MP3-ready alarm clocks, flat-screen TVs and high speed Internet access. Facilities include two infinity pools, an interior courtyard, five restaurants, a cafe, a lobby bar, a casino (opening in the summer of 2008), a fitness center and meetings facilities.

" The 200-room all-inclusive Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua opened Oct. 19 on Dian Bay on the island's northeast coast. Guest rooms have unobstructed water views; flat-screen, wall-mounted TVs; Internet access; large verandas; bathtubs built for two; and microwaves, coffeemakers and refrigerators. Facilities include a spa, a kids' club with a splash pool, a freeform pool with cascading waterfalls, swimming areas on the beach and water sports. Both all-inclusive and EP rates are offered. The Verandah Resort & Spa is a member of Elite Island Resorts with 11 properties on six Caribbean islands. For details, visit www.verandahresortandspa.com.

" The Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is boosting its image as a high-end destination with the announcement of a large scale development on St. Kitts that will be anchored by resort hotels managed by Mandarin Oriental and Auberge Resorts. The 2,500-acre development, called Christophe Harbour, will also include residences, a marina and a golf course designed by Tom Fazio. Kiawah Development, the company behind Kiawah Island in South Carolina and the Doonbeg Golf Club in Ireland, is the lead partner. The 75-room Auberge and 125-key Mandarin Oriental properties will be on sandy bays on opposite sides of the development, with the Auberge scheduled to open first, breaking ground later this year. The Mandarin Oriental is expected to be completed in 2010.

ST. LUCIA, which legalized gambling late last year under the previous administration, has granted three licenses to casinos, the first of which is scheduled to open by 2009 on the north end of the island, according to Marie Fowler, director of tourism. The casinos will be stand-alone facilities not connected to or attached to existing or new resorts and will not be open to local residents.

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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