Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: October 27, 2005

VINCENT VANDERPOOL-WALLACE, the new secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), was the feature presentation at the 28th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference (CTC-28), held in held in St. Thomas Oct. 21 to 26 and attended by 700 delegates, including tourism ministers, directors, government officials and 85 U.S. travel agents. During his speech, he charted the future of CTO and his goal to establish the Caribbean region "as the world's best known owned brand." Integral to his business plan is the private-public partnership forged with the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) and made official at a signing ceremony Oct. 23 in St. Thomas. "When two-high powered entities pledge to join forces and establish the Caribbean together as the world's best-known brand, everyone benefits," he said.

THE SIGNING OF THE 14-POINT Memorandum of Understanding between Pamela Richards, CTO chairman and commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Berthia Parle, CHA president. Both sides hailed the agreement as a long overdue step that will make it possible to move forward as one Caribbean toward a common set of goals.  Tangible evidence of the single Caribbean brand will include a new logo; a single consumer web site at www.Caribbean.com that includes links to travel agent specialists; a single membership site; and a Caribbean-branded credit card. Other planned initiatives: an official Caribbean Life magazine to promote the region; Caribbean awards for innovative tourism projects; use of the new logo in all Caribbean-related advertising and promotion; and joint trade and consumer shows.

IN OTHER NEWS FROM CTC-28:

"Caribbean tourism officials attending the 28th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference (CTC-28) in St. Thomas kept a wary eye on Wilma's path as it tracked over the Yucatan and on through Florida. In fact, the impact of the storm kept officials from CTO-members Cuba and Cancun, Mexico, from attending the conference altogether. The subject of hurricanes and their impact on regional tourism was an issue raised again and again at the conference.

"In an effort to attract more agents to its Travel Expert specialist program, Puerto Rico has gone online with its program. Agents who log on to www.gotopuertorico.com/travelagent can enroll in the program and become certified specialists once they complete the course.

"New ad campaigns herald the winter season in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico will unveil its campaign Nov. 3, which is wrapped around the slogan "Explore Beyond the Shore," signaling an effort to move tourism beyond San Juan. St. Lucia's $6.5 million promotion focuses on the island's natural beauty, lushness and diversity. A key component of the campaign is the Joe Cocker song "You Are So Beautiful," which is used as a voiceover in its TV and radio ads and as a slogan in the print and billboard ads.

MARTINIQUE launched a $1.2 million branding and promotional blitz targeted at the U.S. market and tied into the islands new air service, the debut of a renovated Club Med and the introduction of tour operator incentives tied to package programs. Martinique hoteliers are offering U.S. tour operators an equal euro-to-dollar exchange rate on their Martinique programs this winter, according to Muriel Wiltord-Latamie, director, U.S. and Latin America for the Martinique Promotion Bureau. The official currency in Martinique is the euro. This is a very clear signal that Martinique is ready and willing to work with U.S. operators and we want their business, Wiltord-Latamie said. On the air front, American Eagle will launch nonstop service between San Juan and Fort-de-France, Martinique, on Dec. 15. The flight will operate Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays using 64-seat Super ATR aircraft. The flight will depart San Juan at 12:42 p.m., arriving in Fort-de-France at 2:47 p.m.; the return flight leaves Martinique at 3:12 p.m., arriving in Puerto Rico at 5:22 p.m. Additional new airlift includes new Martinique-based Take Air Lines, which, in an arrangement with Air Caraibes, will offer daily flights from St. Lucias Hewannora International Airport to Martinique. The flight times allow connections with flights arriving from the U.S. mainland.

MEANWHILE, Club Med will debut its $60 million Buccaneers Creek resort Dec. 17, the same day that its weekly nonstop charter service with North American Airlines begins from New Yorks Kennedy airport to Martinique. The resort, which underwent a 20-month, from-the-ground-up renovation, includes a 5,000-square-foot infinity pool, a spa, three restaurants and bars and a range of water sports and activities. The 293 guest rooms feature CD players, flat-screen TVs, pillow-top beds and fully stocked mini refrigerators. Seven-night air-inclusive rates start at $1,775 per person, double, plus a $55 membership fee. For details, visit www.clubmed.com. For information on Martinique, visit www.martinique.org.

PENCIL IT IN

" Tranquility Jazz Festival, Nov. 9 to 13, Anguilla. For details, visit www.anguillajazz.org.

" 17th Annual Starving Artists Day, Nov. 27, Whim Greathouse & Museum, St. Croix. For details, visit www.stcroixlandmarks.com; for a discounted rate, contact Hotel Caravelle at (800) 524-0410.   

" 29th Annual Carriacou Parang Festival, Dec. 16 to 18, Carriacou.

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