MIAMI -- Destinations, properties and incentives are the focus of a new American Express program called Extraordinary Caribbean Escapes.

The program is a cooperative marketing partnership launched in conjunction with five wholesalers and 40 properties on 18 islands as well as several more in Belize, Bermuda, Costa Rica and Panama, according to Glenn Harris, head of marketing, Caribbean and Latin America, at American Express Establishment Services.

The program, which carries a minimum-stay requirement of four or more nights, is valid for booking and travel through Dec. 31, 2003.

Participating wholesalers are Air Jamaica Vacations, American Airlines Vacations, Classic Custom Vacations, Gogo Worldwide Vacations and Travel Impressions.

Harris said each hotel package includes a value-added incentive feature "selected by the individual hotel with a retail value of approximately $250."

The incentives vary by resort and "represent a significant value for clients," he said. Examples include a couples massage, a round of golf, a sailing lesson or a dinner cruise, among others.

American Express cardholders who book by Dec. 31, 2002, receive double Membership Rewards points.

Harris said the genesis of the program began during discussions earlier this year with hoteliers and tourism officials in the region, who voiced the need for a program to promote their properties and destinations without incurring high expenses.

"Because this is a co-op program involving several components, no one group had to bear high costs," Harris said.

Package prices are set by the wholesalers, and all programs must be paid with an American Express credit card.

The high-end resorts in the Escapes program were selected by American Express based upon cardholder feedback, research, ratings and destination input, according to Harris.

"The one segment of travel that was the quickest to rebound after Sept. 11 was the affluent travel market," he said. "We are confident that this program will help propel that segment even further along this winter and next year."

The resorts did not have to pay a fee to be part of the program. Each resort will donate two five-night stays per year for use by selected agents as client incentives.

The program's description, participating properties and amenities are listed at www.extraordinarycaribbeanescapes.com. For more information, call (800) AXP-3421.

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