ST. JOHNS, Antigua -- Theres a lot happening in Antigua these days.

A new government took office last fall; Tourism Minister Harold Lovell wants to raise  awareness of the destination through increased advertising, promotion and collat- eral material; the Antigua Senate recently passed an income tax law for the first time since 1976; the destination had a remarkable winter season, according to tourism officials; and several resorts are expanding.

At Carlisle Bay, a 10-minute drive from Curtain Bluff on Antiguas south coast, its 88 ocean-facing suites were well-booked all winter.

The higher-end market is not price-sensitive, according to Andrew Hedley, Carlisle Bays general manager.

The resort is 16 months old now, and were fully vetted. Our staff is confident in its delivery, and our training has paid off. There was a steep learning curve and a will to get it right, he said.

Carlisle Bays business is 60% from Europe and 40% from the U.S., much of it through agents and operators.

Theres phenomenal airlift from Europe, Hedley said. We could use nonstop lift from New York.

What surprised Hedley was the volume of family business.

Our 37 beach suites lend themselves to families. Now we want to add a kids club to provide specific areas for 3- to 6- year-olds, the 6-to-12 age group and the young-teen group, he said.

Carlisle Bay offers kids dining from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. during holiday periods.

That way the kids are fed and watered before the adults have their own dinner. We have sitters for the kids and monitoring devices when parents are at dinner and the kids are asleep, Hedley said.

Rates include full breakfast and afternoon tea. Meals are a la carte at Indigo, the contemporary, Mediterranean, beachfront restaurant open for all meals, and East, a Pan-Asian, dinner-only restaurant.

Well offer a light Asian lunch menu served poolside next season, Hedley said.

New this season was candlelight dinner by reservation only at the resorts beach jetty.

The new government merited praise from Hedley.

The government has a real commitment to tourism development. They see the boom thats going on in Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos, and they want to be in on that same kind of boom, he said.

Carlisle Bay is a member of Campbell Gray Hotels, a collection of boutique properties headed by hotel and design entrepreneur Gordon Campbell Gray, who has not ruled out other Caribbean properties.

Tobago has been mentioned as a possible site, Hedley said.

Spa and tennis packages are the focus this summer; families, weddings and small corporate retreats are the niche markets next season. The resort is intent on capturing Green Globe certification and has appointed an environmental committee.

For rates and further information, contact Carlisle Bay at

Jumby Bay, a Rosewood private island resort off Antiguas north coast, added two large rooms overlooking the beach to its inventory of 40 rooms and suites.

The larger units demonstrate a growing trend among Caribbean resorts for larger accommodations in all categories, said Peter Bowling, general manager.

Jumby, which is open year-round, also acquired a new, 60-foot SunSeeker motor yacht, available for guest excursions; expanded its terrace for beach dining; and launched a nanny service.

Bowling reported deluxe market numbers are up.

We had a fantastic winter season, and were keeping the momentum going with two promotions focused on the multigeneration market.

Rosewoods Next Generation promotion, part of the hotel companys 25th anniversary celebration, works this way: Buyers purchase a gift certificate this year for a stay at any of 13 Rosewood properties, and recipients can complete their stay at any time in the next 25 years. No additional payment is needed to cover price hikes.

Guests who bring their children here now can buy this gift for them to use as adults, Bowling said.

The  second promotion, Three Generations of Luxury, includes a special rate for three generations of a family staying in three rooms for three nights, as well as a family portrait, daily breakfast and one family dinner arranged by the resort.

John Scott, president of Rosewood -- which also manages Caneel Bay on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands and Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands -- said that vacationers today want more in a vacation experience than sun and sand. Its up to us to add that remarkable ingredient.

For details and rates, visit

Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa launched a 150-room, $49 million expansion of its 193-room property on Dickenson Bay on the islands northwest coast, which tourism minister Lovell said would help reposition Antigua as an up-market destination.

The per-room cost tops out at about $330,000 per room, putting this project at the high end of cost for beach resort properties. The Mediterranean Village, as the expansion is called, is located on six acres adjacent to the existing resort.

Its features will include check-in facilities and restaurants. Completion is slated for next fall.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].


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