Travel Weeklys Caribbean E-letter: February 23, 2006

THE OCCIDENTAL GRAND ARUBA RESORT will debut May 1 on Palm Beach, following a $24 million renovation of the former Allegro-branded property. The all-inclusive resort will offer 391 rooms and suites (down from 402), including the 50-room Royal Club, with all oceanview accommodations; seven restaurants; a spa; and a kids club. Occidental Hotels & Resorts has more than 20 properties in Mexico and the Dominican Republic under its three inclusive brands: Allegro; Occidental Grand; and Royal Hideaway. The resort upgrade is one of many investments under way in Arubas tourism product this year. The Aruba Tourism Authority, along with its private sector partners, has investments worth more than $200 million in every sector of the industry, from the airport and cruise terminals to hotels, spas and restaurants. The island, which posted more than 620,000 visitors from January through October 2005, is poised for an increase in tourism numbers and revenue this year, according to Edison Briesen, minister of tourism and transportation. Projects include a $34 million airport expansion, a $16 million investment in a 10-mile-long park from the airport to the high-rise hotel corridor and a $150 million investment in the hotel product through 2007. In addition, an island-wide tourism-training program will be launched; new restaurants are planned; and De Palm Tours is sinking $5 million into new vehicles and a renovation of De Palm Island, its private island. For details, visit www.aruba.com.

 

THE 29TH ANNUAL CARIBBEAN TOURISM CONFERENCE will take place in the Bahamas in October; neither the specific location nor dates for CTC-29 have been confirmed. The Bahamas was the venue for CTC-25 in 2002 at Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island. CTO and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism expect to host more than 600 tourism industry officials. We look forward to returning to the Bahamas, said Vincent Vanderpool-Walllace, who noted that this years conference would again include the awarding of continuing education credits for MasterClasses taken at the conference. The program is run in conjunction with George Washington University in Washington. Conference delegates completing any of the MasterClasses will earn continuing education units, which can be used toward GWUs Event and Tourism Certificate programs offered online or in the classroom. For details, visit www.onecaribbean.org.

THE ST. LUCIA TOURIST BOARD finalized the line-up for its 15th annual Jazz Festival, to be held May 5 to 14. Artists to perform include Seal, Al Green, Babyface, Nancy Wilson, Freddy Cole and Kenny Garrett. Additional fringe musical acts to perform in various locations around the island will be announced over the next few weeks. Musical acts will perform each night for 10 days, and the festival will be capped with a four-day line-up May 11 to 14 on the main stage at Pigeon Island National Landmark. Jazz packages are available from Air Jamaica Vacations at www.airjamaica.com and Alken Tours at www.alkentours.com. For more information, visit the official Web site at www.stluciajazz.org.

TAKEOFFS

" JetBlue will expand service to the Caribbean with two new routes from Orlando, adding twice-daily flights to San Juan and daily flights to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, beginning May 3. JetBlue currently serves San Juan, Aguadilla and Ponce, Puerto Rico from New York (Kennedy), with additional nonstop service to San Juan from Newark. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, JetBlue serves Nassau from Kennedy and Boston and Santiago, Dominican Republic, from Kennedy. In addition, JetBlue received Transportation Dept. approval to offer service between New York and Bermuda, clearing the way for the airline to begin the flights from Kennedy Airport in May on its new Embraer 190 aircraft.

" Delta Air Lines will offer new daily nonstop flights between Atlanta and Kingston, Jamaica, effective June 1. The new service will expand to 17 the number of Caribbean destinations served by Delta and complements the carriers existing service to Montego Bay, offered year-round from Atlanta and Cincinnati.

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