Coral Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels mutually dissolved their three-year agreement to further develop the Coral by Hilton brand, which includes four all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic.

Coral's resorts, which have operated in the Dominican Republic since 1996, reverted back to the Coral brand.

The company's resorts are the Coral Canoa Resort in Bayahibe, the Coral Costa Caribe in Juan Dolio, the Coral Hamaca in Boca Chica and the Coral Marien in Puerto Plata.

The dissolution "stems from a mutually agreed upon and amicable decision," said Simon Suarez, executive vice president of Coral Hotels & Resorts.

Matthew Hart, Hilton's president and COO, said, "Hilton has enjoyed a successful three-year relationship with Coral Hotels & Resorts. This mutual decision is a result of our companies pursuing new directions and focus for development opportunities."

All existing reservations will be honored by the four Coral hotels.

With the debranding process now in place, Coral plans to launch a marketing campaign and is continuing to sell through existing distribution channels, including tour operators, travel agents, online agencies and direct to consumers.

Coral also has plans to launch a rewards program for frequent guests.

Its new Web site, CoralHotels.com, is in operation, although many features are still to be added.

Coral's new toll-free reservations number is (866) 863-9281.

Changing conditions in the Dominican Republic, including a new trade agreement with Central America, has opened up that region to new business, according to Suarez.

Coral, which has been firmly entrenched in the Dominican Republic, may move beyond its home base, Suarez said.

"We're working on that and looking at different opportunities and strategies," he said.

Within the Dominican Republic, likely areas of expansion include Punta Cana and Samana, according to Suarez.

High-season bookings for the four Coral resorts were described by Suarez as "fairly robust."

Suarez added that much of the business early in the winter season has come from Europe rather than the U.S. He attributed this to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require U.S. citizens traveling by airplane to have a passport when entering or re-entering the U.S., effective Jan. 23.

"This will have negative effects," he said. "The Dominican Republic does not now require a passport of U.S. travelers, and we know our business will be impacted because of this."

Coral's Web site includes an advisory regarding the passport requirement.

"We are attempting to inform the traveling public as much as possible and through various means," Suarez said.

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

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