Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Oct. 28, 2004

SANDALS RESORTS LIFTS BAN ON BOOKINGS BY SAME SEX COUPLES: Sandals Resorts which operates 12 couples-only resorts in Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Lucia, lifted its long-standing ban on bookings by same-sex couples. According to a company statement, the all-inclusive resort chain has "refined" its couples-only policy, in effect since 1981, to include all adult couples. Although widely perceived in the market as a ban aimed at gay and lesbian pairs, the mixed-sex requirement also had effectively barred two friends or relatives of the same gender from sharing a room at Sandals. The four Beaches resorts -- three in Jamaica and one in the Turks and Caicos - accept singles, couples, families and groups, in all gender and age combinations.

CTC-27, held last week in Aruba, drew 794 delegates, including 203 travel agents, up from 2003's numbers of 676 and 150, respectively. Named Travel Agent of the Year by the Caribbean Tourism Organization was Carol Larocca, of Empress Travel in Lindenhurst, NY, a member of CTO's Long Island Chapter and an agent for 25 years. CTO Chapters of the Year winners included the Pacific North West chapter from the west coast, the New England chapter from the east coast and the North Texas chapter from the central U.S. Winner of the Conde Nast Traveler essay competition was Roshan Morris of Guyana. Three countries have bid to host CTC-28 next year, according to Pamela Richards, new CTO chairman and commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands. These include Bermuda, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts. A decision is expected shortly. No successor was named to replace Jean Holder, CTO's outgoing secretary general. The deadline for applications has been extended to Nov. 24.

IN OTHER CTO NEWS:

" Jamaica launched an ad campaign with the tagline "Once You Go, You Know" that focuses on the diversity and culture of the destination. TV and print ads highlight what sets Jamaica apart from other islands, specifically its 12 golf courses, villa products, attractions, Blue Mountain coffee and honeymoon resorts. "It's something that anyone who has been to Jamaica understands. If you've been to Jamaica, you 'get it'," said Paul Pennicook, director of tourism. The TV ads are running on 12 U.S. stations for three weeks and will resume again in the winter.

" William Joseph, director of tourism for Grenada, described hurricane damage of "Biblical proportions - physically and psychologically" but vowed that "Grenada will move forward as a nation." The first two cruise ships since the hurricane were set to call this week, and Carriacou's annual Parang Festival will take place Dec. 17 to 19. For festival details, visit www.grenadines.net/carriacou/parang.html.

" McKeeva Bush, minister of tourism for the Cayman Islands, expects that travel restrictions for Grand Cayman, which now permit only Caymanian residents, passport holders, relief workers, home and condo owners to enter, will be "relaxed" by the Immigration Department by the end of November. Cayman Airways expects to launch its weekly Boston-Grand Cayman service Dec. 18.

TAKEOFFS :

" DCA Dutch Caribbean Airlines ceased operations in mid-October. The carrier flew throughout the Dutch islands and from Curacao to Amsterdam. Both Bonaire Excel, a commuter line based in Bonaire, and American Eagle have expressed interest in picking up DCA's Caribbean routes.

" Caribbean Sun Airlines will launch twice-daily service from San Juan to Anguilla Nov. 1. Anguilla's Wallblake Airport expansion, scheduled for completion in December, will offer a 5,400-foot runway capable of landing 64-passenger ATR 72 aircraft, private jet facilities, and workout and conference rooms.

" JetBlue's JFK operations expand Nov. 1 with the launch of daily service between New York and Nassau, Song's service on Dec. 1 and Spirit Airline's daily schedule Jan. 10.

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