FREEPORT, Bahamas -- Although the new passport regulations
remained front and center on the minds of everyone -- from
government tourism executives to tour operators and hoteliers --
ministers of tourism from more than 20 Caribbean countries took a
break from all the passport talk to detail strategic plans that
included increased hotel inventories, sustainability initiatives
and optimistic winter season forecasts.
In a marathon day
of 20-minute press conferences held during the opening day of the
29th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference here on Oct 22, which was
likened to "speed dating, media-style," tourism plans were revealed
and branding campaigns unveiled.
According to Aloun
N'dombet Assamba, Jamaica's minister of tourism, an island-wide
beautification project is in place in Jamaica to "welcome the
increased influx of visitors," as the island saw a 17.2% increase
in visitor arrivals from January through September 2006 over the
same period last year.
The airports in
Montego Bay and Kingston are undergoing an upgrade with streamlined
procedures at the airports to allow passengers with "No Goods to
Declare" to walk through customs without having to be checked or
In addition, the
Norman Manley Airport in Kingston is receiving a three-phase, $80
million expansion that includes a new departures terminal and four
passenger-loading bridges, while the customs hall at Montego Bay
Airport is being expanded and the parking gates increased from 20
On the hotel front,
a certification program for disabled-friendly hotels will include
ratings for properties "to help the physically challenged identify
properties catering to their specific needs," the minister
More than 12,000
new rooms will be added in the next four years, significantly
boosting the current room count of 23,000 rooms.
Meanwhile, a bed 'n
breakfast program will launch Dec. 1 with 500 rooms in 160 Jamaican
homes. "This is in response to the growing need for ordinary
Jamaicans to get involved in tourism," Assamba said.
In other CTC-29
Noel Lynch, minister of tourism for Barbados,
said that the probable merger between LIAT and Caribbean Star "will
result in a much more efficiently run airline. There have been too
many seats chasing too few passengers. That will change
Lynch reported that
year-round special events "will fill in the traditional tough
periods. As an example, Barbados will host the World Cup of Golf in
early December, a traditionally slow period for visitor
In 2009, Barbados
will open a new marina to cater to a new niche market for the
island, the mega-yacht market, Lynch also intimated.
Edison Briesen, tourism minister of Aruba, said that the island's
new Rumba Aruba marketing campaign is designed "to retake control
after a year of challenges" (a reference to the case of Natalie
Holloway, the Alabama teenager who went missing on Aurba in May
2005). "The year 2006 has been one of renovation, rejuvenation and
repositioning of Aruba."
developments are JetBlue's launch Dec. 15 of daily nonstop service
from New York (Kennedy); a $26 million renovation at the Hyatt
resort, which will be completed next March; a $35 million re-do of
the airport, and an expansion of the cruise terminal.
Several hotel projects are underway in Trinidad, according to Jim
Hepple, director of tourism and president of the Trinidad &
Tobago Tourism Development Council. These include the Holiday Inn
Express, opening in January, the 428-room Hyatt Regency in
September 2007 and a $40 million renovation of the Trinidad Hilton
by December 2007.
In time for the
Holiday Inn's opening is a bevy of new air service: Delta will
launch nonstop service four times a week from Atlanta to Port of
Spain, Trinidad on Dec 9 and weekly service from Atlanta to Tobago
beginning Feb. 17.
According to Henry de LaGarde, director of tourism and general
manager, North America, U.S. Virgin Islands., development projects
include the Yacht Haven Grande and the new dock facility at Crown
Bay Center, both in St. Thomas, and the revitalization of the
Frederiksted area in St. Croix.
In the air, new
lift includes service on Northwest Airlines with weekly nonstop
flights from Detroit beginning Jan. 6 to St. Thomas, and daily
service from Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas on Spirit twice a day
from Dec. 14 to Jan. 12.
In St. Vincent and The Grenadines, the $170 million Argyle
International Airport, set to open in 2011, "will open the
destination up to jets and nonstop services from the U.S. for the
first time," according to Vida Bernard, director of
Martinique will offer weekly service from Atlanta to Fort de
France, effective Dec. 16 and daily American Eagle service
beginning Feb. 1 from San Juan, said Christel Coita, marketing and
media relations coordinator, Martinique Promotion
Ronella Croes, Bonaire's director of tourism, reported that
Continental will add a second nonstop flight from Newark on Dec.
16. The carrier currently offers a nonstop from Houston. "Growth is
on our agenda, and we will add 600 new hotel rooms in the next few
years to our inventory," she added.
Curacao's new international airport, which opened in July, can
handle up to 1.6 million passengers a year, according to the
tourist board. Hotel occupancies averaged 83.1% from January
through June; and hotel rooms will total more than 6,000 by 2009,
which is double the current inventory.
Room to grow
More than 1,000 new hotel rooms will open on St. Lucia by the end
of this year, according to Philip Pierre, minister of tourism. That
will bring the room count total to more than 6,500. Increased
airlift includes Air Jamaica's three weekly nonstops from Kennedy
and Delta's daily service from Atlanta.
Puerto Rico reported more $777 million in new hotel developments
over the next few years, more than $400 million in airport
improvements and the launch in early 2007 of a booking engine on
its Web site, www.gotopuertorico.com.
Visitor figures for the Turks and Caicos from January through
September totaled 181,000 while totals for all of 2005 came to
176,000 visitors, according to Lindsay Musgrove, director of
tourism. "We are not going after the masses. We are going after the
high-end market," he said.
Hotel room count
will rise from the current 5,000 to 8,000 by 2012, he
St.Maarten/St. Martin, now united in promotions and marketing, will
have 5,500 new rooms in the hotel inventory by the end of 2007; the
$90 million expansions at the Princess Juliana airport will debut
on Nov. 10, and will encourage cruise ships to call on days other
than Wednesdays and Saturdays when the cruise port is at
Ricky Skerritt, minister of tourism for St. Kitts, said that the
island's new eight-point strategic tourism plan will focus on the
environment, the empowerment of locals and attracting the high-end
luxury market.To contact reporter Gay Nagle
Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].