CANCUN, Mexico -- A record 1,900 delegates, including 495 buyers, attended the 18th annual Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace '98 here Jan. 9 to 11. It was the third consecutive year that the event was held in Cancun.

Marketplace '99 will move to the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, the Bahamas, will host the gathering in 2000.

CHA president John Jefferis outlined for delegates the organization's top priorities for 1998. They include:

  • An enhanced CHA Web site.
  • Specialized conferences.
  • Further development of strong environmental measures through the Caribbean Action for Sustainable Tourism initiative.
  • The growth of strategic alliances.
  • Continued emphasis on upgrading and improving hotels.
  • An informal poll of hoteliers representing 35 national hotel associations, 1,100 member properties and 120,000 rooms reflected optimism for the current winter season. High occupancies were cited by a number of tourism officials, including those from the Bahamas, Cancun and the Turks & Caicos. St. Martin representatives said that restaurant reservations are running at an all-time high this winter, while Antigua hoteliers reported increased inquiries from travel agents.

    Many CHA members cited the development of air charter sources as a priority item, especially during peak season, when scheduled flights are full and fares are high. The U.S.Virgin Islands, for example, has eight charter operators serving the destination this winter. "What good are our hotels if we cannot get our clients to the island?" Tom Cornwall, director of sales at Renaissance Grand Beach Resort on St. Thomas, asked. "We're using charters to guarantee that our clients have air access to our destination and our hotels," he said.

    In other news at the event:

  • American Airlines announced it will begin service from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, April 5 with a daily roundtrip flight.
  • CHA said it will host the second Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference from March 25 to 27 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Speakers will include Percival J. Patterson, prime minister of Jamaica; Paul A. Nussbaum, chairman and chief executive officer of Patriot American Hospitality, and Doug G. Geoga, president of Hyatt Hotels Corp.
  • The annual Caribbean Hospitality Industry Conference is set for June 14 to 18 at Radisson Cable Beach Resort in Nassau, the Bahamas.
  • Jamaica-based SuperClubs broke ground on its 225-room Hedonism III resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, which will feature Jamaica's first "swim-up" rooms; opening is set for early 1999. Breezes' resorts begin construction this year in Negril, Jamaica, as well as on St. Lucia and St. Kitts. SuperClubs' 250-room Jibacoa opens in Cuba next November, bringing the chain's total room count on the island to 1,254 rooms in six properties.
  • Dominican Republic-based Viva Resorts, with inclusive properties in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, will open a fourth resort in May in Playacar, Mexico.

    The firm also is expanding its room count in its existing properties.

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