CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas — Hotel developments and airport upgrades dominated news from several tourism directors speaking at CTO's State of the Industry Conference here.
Leading off was Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands and outgoing chairman of CTO.
"The USVI has nonstop air service from 10 mainland gateways and 22,000 air seats a week on average. We've upgraded baggage and concession areas at Cyril King Airport in St. Thomas and we have greeters at the airport every day to make a visitor's first impression a positive, welcoming one," she said.
On the hotel scene, the first 75 rooms of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Vacation Club branded timeshare development will open in February on the site of the former Renaissance Grand Beach Resort on St. Thomas. The project will total 220 timeshare villas when fully open.
The official rebranding of Dreams Sugar Bay St. Thomas Resort & Spa, the former Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, takes place in November as a fully all-inclusive resort.
Bolongo Bay Beach Resort and Frenchman's Reef Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas both offer all-inclusive plans as an option for guests.
"Visitor numbers are important, but I also take a hard look at visitor spend to judge how well we are doing as a destination," Nicholson-Doty said.
"Latest figures show it's up 13% from 2012 through year-to-date; our occupancy through August was 73.2% versus 68.6% at the same time last year and RevPAR was $187.71 versus $172.11," she said.
In Turks and Caicos, the airport expansion in Providenciales will be completed in October; hotel inventory, which now stands at 3,000, "will grow by 1,500 rooms in the next five years," according to Rufus Ewing, premier and minister of tourism, culture and heritage.
To facilitate the arrivals process for air visitors, Grand Cayman's Owen Roberts Airport, described as "an aging facility" by Rosa Harris, director of tourism, will launch the first phase of a multi-year expansion plan in May.
In the interim, expanded shade areas, an air-conditioned tent and lounges in the departures area will be added for the upcoming winter season.
The former Hyatt hotel, damaged in Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and an eyesore since then, will finally be demolished this year.
"A new resort is planned, although no brand has been named and no construction timeline announced," Harris said.
The Grand Cayman Beach Suites will add 28 more suites; the new-build 263-room Kimpton Hotel is slated to open in 2016, and a development is planned in Bodden Town on Grand Cayman's East End that will include several hotels and villas.
A hotel for recovering patients and their families is planned for Health City, the new medical facility on Grand Cayman.
Topping Anguilla's news is the reopening of the 44-room Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort, on Nov. 1, following a three-year closure and a multimillion-dollar renovation project.
CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa has begun construction on its second hotel, the 62-room Reef, slated to open in 2015, according to Chantelle Davis, deputy director of tourism.
Cap Juluca added the Juluca Pride, a luxury 12-passenger cruiser that is available for island excursions and private charter trips from Anguilla to St. Maarten and St. Barts.
"The presence of Sandals La Source Grenada is helping drive our visitor numbers," said Rudy Grant, CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority. "We've seen an 18% year-over-year increase in stayover arrivals, which is due, in part, to Sandals."
The GTA is partnering with Sandals to bring 2,560 agents to Grenada on fam visits through the end of the year.
Grenada also will welcome Carnival Cruise Lines this winter, marking the first visits since 1994. The Disney Magic also will make its inaugural visit.
Several resorts in the British Virgin Islands are upgrading accommodations, including Peter Island, Guana Island and the Anegada Reef.
Rosewood's Little Dix Bay added several treehouse suites this year as part of a two-year renovation and expansion program, according to Sharon Flax Mars, director of tourism.