Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Sept. 12, 2006

BWIA (British West Indies Airways) will shut down on Dec. 31, and a new carrier, Caribbean Airlines, will take its place as the national carrier of Trinidad and Tobago in January 2007, according to Peter Davies, BWIA's CEO. The new carrier will be based at Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The decision to shut down the cash-strapped BWIA followed a government cabinet session Sept. 7, during which a 10-member ministerial team weighed various business proposals for the carrier's future. Caribbean Airlines' regional and international routes are expected to follow those currently served by BWIA. All BWIA tickets already purchased will be honored by Caribbean Airlines; BWIA's frequent flyer miles also will transfer to Caribbean Airlines.

DIVE AND WATER SPORTS operators in Grand Cayman reported no negative feedback or tour cancellations to Stingray City as a result of a freak accident in Australia in which Steve Irwin, the country's khaki-clad wildlife star and spokesman, died as the result of a stingray wound. Stingray City in Grand Cayman's North Sound is one of the destination's most popular attractions for cruise and land-based visitors. Stingrays gathered in the area for years to feed on the guts of fish cleaned by fishermen, and in the late 1980s divers started feeding squid to the rays. Now, dozens of stingrays congregate each day looking for handouts from the hundreds of visitors who snorkel, dive or tour the area in glass-bottom boats.

STEVE BROADBELT, chairman of the Watersports Committee of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, pointed out that "not all stingrays are the same, and there are about 200 species of stingrays. Australia has some of the deadliest, but many of their less-harmful cousins live in the Caribbean and other parts of the world." Although Broadbelt also noted that Stingray City's stingrays "have been handfed for years and are used to being around people," he cited the need to regulate the procedures used at Stingray City, saying that the "manhandling of stingrays and lifting them from the water is both cruel and dangerous." Tim Austin, assistant director with the Dept. of Environment in the Cayman Islands, confirmed that legislation to protect Stingray City should be finalized within months. The new regulations will restrict the number of visitors and regulate the feeding and handling of stingrays.

TAKEOFFS

" Delta will launch nonstop, twice-weekly service from Atlanta to Guadeloupe on Dec. 13, becoming the first U.S. carrier to serve the French island. The flights will depart Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9:55 a.m. from Atlanta, arriving in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe, at 3:10 p.m. The return flight will depart at 4 p.m. on the same days, arriving in Atlanta at 7:20 p.m.

" Beginning Jan. 6, Northwest will offer a Saturday flight between Detroit and St. Thomas, departing Detroit at 9:45 a.m. and arriving in St. Thomas at 3:10 p.m. The return flight will leave St. Thomas at 4 p.m., landing in Detroit at 9:30 p.m.

TOUR OPERATORS

" Chukka Caribbean Adventures, based in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, has achieved certification under the Green Globe Certification Program, which measures tourism operations worldwide and assesses their environmental practices. Chukka was founded in 1983 and operates 32 nature adventure programs in Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, the newest of which is a Jamaican Dogsled Tour. Last year, the firm ran more than 250,000 tours. The firm will launch its booking engine on Dec. 15, enabling agents and travelers to browse and book on line. For details, visit www.chukkacaribbean.com.

" Delta Vacations expanded its Caribbean product line with new packages to 13 resorts in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, effective Oct. 25, with travel beginning Dec. 15. The launch coincides with the start of Delta's daily nonstop service between Atlanta and Puerto Plata. In addition to Puerto Plata, Delta vacations also has programs to Santo Domingo and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic as well as 12 other Caribbean destinations. For details, visit www.vaxvacationaccess.com; www.amadeus.net; or www.sabretravelnetwork.com.

Caribbean Editor:

Gay Nagle Myers

Phone: (201) 902-1591

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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