Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: September 1, 2005

A $5 TOURIST TAX will take effect Nov. 1 in the Dominican Republic for visitors arriving by air. The tax, which government officials described as temporary, will be collected by the airlines and rolled into the price of the airline ticket. Meanwhile, the $10 tourist visa fee, currently collected from air and cruise visitors upon arrival, continues and will remain separate from the $5 tax, although an electronic version of the visa will be introduced on Nov. 1 to help streamline the process. In addition, a $20 departure tax, which has been collected from visitors departing by air for more than 20 years, remains unchanged.

FELIX JIMENEZ, minister of tourism, said that the revenue from the $5 tax will be used to shore up the destinations infrastructure and, in particular, its roads, signage, water treatment systems, sanitary landfills and beach regeneration programs. Specific projects will include new restrooms along the coastal areas and new traffic signals on its roadways. The government estimated that the new tax would generate close to $22 million a year in revenue on the basis of arrival figures of 4 million a year. Air arrivals in the Dominican Republic in 2004 topped 3.5 million; from January through July of this year, the numbers increased 7.75%, and Jimenez predicted a 10% overall increase by years end.

 

RENOVATE AND INNOVATE are the themes this fall at several Sandals and Beaches resorts. Sandal's Dunn's River Golf Resort & Spa in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is closed through Dec. 18 to complete the final phase of its $14 million renovation project that will include a redesigned lobby, upgraded rooms in three categories and the debut of the Red Lane Spa. Sandals Inn in Montego Bay, Jamaica, meanwhile, will close for refurbishing from Sept. 5 to Dec. 18. In addition, also closing Sept. 5 is Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril, Jamaica, which reopens Oct. 5. Details on the refurbishments are still to come. A $65 million program to create a 180-suite Mediterranean Village at Sandals Antigua Caribbean Village & Spa will be completed in November 2006; and Beaches Turks & Caicos in Providenciales is adding 168 family suites featuring separate rooms with bunk beds and Xbox consoles for kids and sitting rooms and Jacuzzi tubs for parents at its new Italian Village. No opening date for the addition has yet been set. For details, visit www.sandals.com and www.beaches.com.

PENCIL IT IN

" Apple Vacations WinterSun tradeshows, Sept. 19 to 29, various eastern U.S. cities. Newark, NJ, Sept. 19; Woodbury, N.Y., Sept. 20; Philadelphia, Sept. 22; Baltimore, Sept. 26; Cleveland, Sept. 28; and Pittsburgh, Sept. 29. For details, visit http://travelagents.applevacations.com.

" First annual Curacao Cuisine, Culture and Heritage Festival, through Oct. 15, Willemstad. Special rates at nine art galleries, 12 museums and 20 restaurants, plus a complimentary walking tour Tuesday mornings, and a  $200 air fare credit on stays of five or more nights at participating hotels. For details, visit www.curacao-event.com.

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