While massive hotel developments such as the Baha Mar complex in the Bahamas and the Singulari project in Antigua capture headlines, smaller properties in the region are staking out their turf with enhancements that indicate solid knowledge of both their source markets and guests' expectations.

Le Fort Savane Hotel on MartiniqueGoings-on on the French island of Martinique, for example, range from the new, 15-room Le Fort Savane Hotel in Fort-de-France to the recently renovated, 94-room Hotel La Pagerie in the Trois-Ilets resort area.

"While we continue to pursue development opportunities with the larger U.S. and international chains, it is our smaller and often homegrown 'hotels de charm' that have seen the greatest expansion, in terms of new construction and renovations, in recent years," said Muriel Wiltord, Americas director for the Martinique Promotion Bureau.

Tourism officials on the island tout the euro currency, Le Tricolour flag and the French language while projecting Martinique's cuisine, culture and distinct Afro-Caribbean heritage, all of which are reflected in the island's hospitality and accommodations sectors.

"Intimate and stylish boutique properties embody the soul of Martinique, giving travelers a real sense of being hosted by a close friend or extended family in a way that is perfect for experiential travel," Wiltord said.

However, that's not to say that accommodations choices on the French island are solely boutique and precious.

"We are open to all types of resort and hotel development. Our aim is to provide the most diverse hotel product in the Caribbean to suit every type of traveler," she said.

Le Domaine de Fonds Blancs villa on MartiniqueMartinique's latest contribution to the ultraluxe market is the Le Domaine des Fonds Blancs complex, which debuted this summer on the island's Atlantic coast and includes the 7,000-square-foot Villa Isabelle, accommodating 18 adult guests with staff, service, a pool and lots of amenities.

"There is a market here and room for all, and our island hoteliers are tapping into that," Wiltord said.

Malliouhana, an Auberge resort, reopens on Anguilla on Nov. 1, following a three-year closure and extensive renovations that included reducing the room count from 55 to 44.

"The resort will continue to grow," said John Vasatka, general manager. "There is lots of space.

"The essence of Malliouhana, as former guests know it, will remain intimate, personable and welcoming," he said.

While the resort community of Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands has no hotel component, its current villa portfolio includes six rental properties with two more coming online by year's end.

Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin IslandsOil Nut Bay launched a rental program in early 2013, and officials say it has been building its network of tour operators and agents and currently works with several U.S. travel agents, paying 10% commission. Although the percentage of its business from agents is small, officials say they are hopeful it will increase as awareness of the property builds.

Small details and tweaks make a big difference as can be seen at St. James's Club Morgan Bay on St. Lucia, a member of the Elite Island Resorts portfolio.

"The market is trending to more active, socially connected and less regimented travel," said Steve Heydt, president of Elite Island Resorts. "We've closely monitored guest feedback since we relaunched the property in late 2011.

"Because food and travel often go hand in hand, we've upgraded our culinary offerings, added menu options and renovated our conference center," he added.

The all-inclusive, family-friendly, 326-room resort recently expanded its menu options to cover a variety of dietary restrictions for all guests, lengthened its operating hours at two of its restaurants and reopened Morgan's Pier, a full-service bar for adults craving a brief family break.

Menus throughout the resort now include vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options; all menus are posted up to a week in advance to help guests better choose and reserve their dining and restaurant options.

Tapping into the corporate market, the resort's recently renovated Calabash Conference Center now offers complimentary WiFi and a separate area for private receptions.

Progress in Haiti's hotel development mirrors the destination's strategies to build and strengthen its tourism product, according to Stephanie Villedrouin, minister of tourism.

The minister cited the recent opening of the Monte Cristo Hotel and Suites near Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, as the latest in a string of new construction or renovated hotels, reflecting a renewed emphasis on its tourism sector.

The 84-room hotel features a conference area and a pool.

It joins other hotels that have opened their doors in the last two years, including the Best Western Premier, the Royal Oasis, the Villa Therese and the NH El Rancho, the former El Rancho hotel.

Others that are in the works include the Marriott project in Port-au-Prince, opening in 2015, and the Hilton Garden Inn, slated to open at the Toussaint Louverture Airport in 2016.

On the other side of the island, the 150-suite Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo opened in June, marking the debut of the brand in the Dominican Republic.

Another property going big and luxe is the 280-room Sandals Barbados, set to open its doors in January following multi-million-dollar renovations to the former Couples Barbados.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 


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