Travel Weeklys Caribbean E-letter: March 17, 2005

ST. LUCIAS TOURIST arrivals in January jumped 20.7% over January 2004, following an annual spike of 7.8% for all of 2004, tourism officials said. The islands hotel product is on a roll as well, with several properties set to expand room count, including the Bay Gardens Hotel and its sister property Bay Gardens Inn, which begin construction on the 80-room Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa on Reduit Beach in June, with completion projected for November 2006. The Landing breaks ground in November on phase one of its $165 million resort project on Rodney Bay on the north shore, with the first phase targeted to open in February 2007. The 19-acre site will feature yacht moorings and slips, a beach club, water sports, helicopter transfers to/from major airports and nearby islands, a restaurant, a spa and 500 villa rooms. The 84-room CocoPalm, the second of three properties of the newly-formed Coco Resorts, opens in April in Rodney Bay. The hotel will offer conference facilities, a restaurant, a bar and pool and is adjacent to CocoKreole, its sister property.

SEABORNE AIRLINES and Smiths Ferries BVI Connection package offers seaplane flights between St. Croix and St. Thomas that connect with fast-ferry services from St. Thomas to Jost van Dyke and Virgin Gorda in the BVI. Omer ErSelcuk, Seabornes chief marketing officer, said that the timing of the connection allows St. Croix travelers to depart St. Croix at 7:15 a.m., spend four hours on Virgin Gorda or up to five hours on Jost van Dyke and return to St. Croix at 4:40 p.m. The package is priced at $175 per person for Jost van Dyke and $185 for Virgin Gorda. Equipment rentals, food and drink and a BVI departure fee of $5 per person are additional. To book, call (888) FLY TOUR or visit www.seaborneairlines.com.

THE BONAIRE DIVE FESTIVAL, which began in 1997 as an annual event for divers and snorkelers to experience the islands natural treasures and to learn how to protect the reefs, is being restructured this year to appeal to a wider age range and market segment: young and old, divers and non-divers, tots to teens. Therefore, the festival will not be held this year but will take place in June 2006, according to the Tourism Corporation Bonaire. However, a number of hotels offer special deals and packages through June of this year, including Bellafonte Chateau de la Mer [www.bellafontebonaire.com], Divers Paradise Bonaire [www.diversparadisebonaire.com] and Harbour Village Beach Club [www.harbourvillage.com]. For Bonaire information, visit www.infobonaire.com.

ROLODEX
" Luana Wheatley was named to the new post of director of marketing for the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association. For the past nine years, Wheatley managed the destinations public relations and promotional efforts, coordinated crises communications, special event planning and media updates.
" Christiane Hansen was appointed general manager of the Beach House on Barbuda. Hansen formerly served as manager of the neighboring K Club Barbuda and held management posts at Club Med Maldives in Africa and Spain.
" Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands named Andrew Niedenthal as executive chef, responsible for all culinary aspects of the resort, including its two restaurants, in-villa meal preparation and personalized menu options for guests. Most recently, Niedenthal was executive chef at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, Fla.

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