Operators: Recovery and rebuilding the theme of the season

MIAMI -- Tour operators voiced optimism regarding the pace of recovery and rebuilding. Greg Thorne, president of Inter Island Tours, plans to gauge the interest of Dominican Republic hoteliers in offering a Come Back to the Caribbean promotion.

 

I anticipate an excellent winter season, because travelers wont cancel their plans -- just redirect them to areas not impacted by the storms, Thorne said.

At US Airways Vacations, Kris Potter, vice president and general manager, agreed. There are destinations unaffected by recent events that welcome our customers with open arms.

Mike Norton at Air Jamaica Vacations said that 43% of our customers affected by the storms rebooked immediately to new dates, mostly in January, and 52% of those affected accepted vouchers for future travel. We had very few cancellations.

AJV put a stop-sell order on arrivals in islands impacted by the storms for the rest of the year, Norton said. After a personal inspection, we may lift the suspension, but we want to be conservative about rebooking properties that were damaged.

Meanwhile, operators who accompanied Gordon Butch Stewart, chairman of Sandals & Beaches Resorts, on a whirlwind inspection tour of Sandals Jamaican properties earlier this week, agreed that Jamaica is ready for business, according to Thomas Meier, executive vice president of private-label brands for Mark Travel Corp. -- G.N.M.

MIAMI -- The Bahamas will launch a campaign Oct. 11, designed to reassure travelers that most of the islands in its 700-island archipelago suffered no hurricane damage and are open for business.

Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, director general of the Ministry of Tourism, said, Our objective is to let people know that the Bahamas is a long stretch of islands -- longer than the state of Florida. Grand Bahama Island and Abaco in the northern part of the chain had damage, but Nassau and Paradise Island are fine, as are most of our other islands.

Vanderpool Wallace also said that several of our neighbors [in the Caribbean] have had serious damage. We are all in this together and we will all come back together. 

The campaign, which will run in trade publications, newspapers and on TV, may carry a special tag line or slogan.

Meanwhile, cleanup and recovery efforts continued from the storms, including the most-recent Hurricane Jeanne, which again bruised Grand Bahama and Abaco last weekend before hitting Florida -- again.

Here is a recap:

" Bahamas. Not all hotel damage reports from Jeanne have been tabulated, because of a lack of telephone service and power. Kerry Fountain, executive director of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board, said that the Abaco Beach Hotel had some flooding but is open for business.

Tentative reopening dates for others include: Abaco Inn, Nov. 8; Banyan Beach, closed indefinitely; Cocoa Bay Cottages, Oct. 15; Dolphin Beach Resort, Oct. 17; Turtle Hill Villas, Oct. 15. Docks, boats and marinas are damaged. Elsewhere, properties continued repairs from the earlier storms. In the Berry Islands, Little Whale Cay reopens Feb. 1; Tropical Diversions, Nov. 15; Sammy Ts Beach Resort on Cat Island reopens Oct. 15.

On Eleuthera, Duck Inn is closed; The Cove reopens Nov. 26; on Exuma, the Palm at Three Sisters is closed. On Harbour Island, Coral Sands reopens Nov. 4 and Pink Sands Hotel in early November. Club Med on San Salvador will reopen Dec. 18.

On Grand Bahama Island, the Sheraton at Our Lucaya, originally set to reopen Oct. 1, will reopen Oct. 14; the Westin at Our Lucaya will reopen Dec. 17. Both will offer a 25% discount and a $50 spa certificate to arriving guests. The Wyndham Viva Fortuna Beach reopens Dec. 1 and the Royal Oasis Golf Resort & Casino on Feb. 1; assessments are still pending for Old Bahama Bay Resort. Although Grand Bahamas West End sustained a lot of damage, GBI airport is open for commercial flights.

A complete rundown is available at www.bahamas.com.

" Cayman Islands. The dusk-to-dawn curfew has been lifted on Grand Cayman. American Airlines resumed limited service with a daily flight from New York (Kennedy); Cayman Airways, which has operated only relief flights through last week, expects to resume some passenger service next week. The carriers new twice-weekly year-round nonstop service from Boston is still on track for an Oct. 29 launch.

On the Sister Islands, which had minimal damage from Hurricane Ivan, Little Cayman Beach Resort Paradise Villas will reopen in late October and Pirates Point Resort on Oct. 16. Southern Cross Club lost four of 11 rooms but is rebuilding and will reopen Nov. 10 with seven rooms. Cayman Bracs properties are open.

" Grenada. Power, water and limited phone service have been restored to most of St. Georges; the island-wide curfew remains in effect. La Luna resort will reopen Nov. 25, True Blue Bay Resort is open for emergency workers; and LaSource will reopen in early January. One hotelier estimated that the total damage on the island exceeds $600 million.

For updates, visit www.grenadaemergency.com.

" Jamaica. In Montego Bay, Holiday Inn SunSpree set a new reopening date of Nov. 30. Sunset at the Palms in Negril will reopen Nov. 1, following a two-month planned renovation. Also in Negril, Beachcomber will accept guests Dec. 15, Beaches Sandy Bay Oct. 28, Grand Lido Negril Resort & Spa Oct. 15, Merrils Beach Resort III Dec. 20, Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa Nov. 18, Tensing Pen Nov. 11. Sunset At The Palms reopens Nov. 1 after scheduled renovations.

Closed until further notice in Negril are The Caves, Catch A Falling Star, Mariners Inn, Paradise View Hotel and Rock Cliff. In Runaway Bay, FDR Pebbles reopens Oct. 9; on the South Coast, Jakes reopens Oct. 15, Strawberry Hill Nov. 22. In Port Antonio, Fern Hill Club and Trident Villas & Hotel are closed.

For updates, check at www.visitjamaica.com or www.onecaribbean.org.

" Dominican Republic. At least 10 hotels in the Punta Cana area are closed until November, including Occidental Allegro, Sirenis Cocotal & Tropical, Bavaro Princess, Caribe Club Princess and Tropical Princess. Breezes Punta Cana is closed until Dec. 9, and Punta Cana Resort & Club reopens Dec. 20.

" Grenadines. Palm Island Resort, managed by Elite Island Resorts, will reopen Nov. 8, according to Steve Heydt, president and CEO.

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

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