SAN JUAN --- The long-awaited Caribbean tourism recovery, which
stalled after the first quarter last year due to the war in Iraq,
may actually happen this year, according to projections, estimates
and year-end figures tallied by regional tourism officials and
hoteliers gathered at the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) annual
Marketplace event here.
Simon Suarez, CHA president, reported that figures through
August 2003 showed a 6% overall growth over the same period in
"Visitor arrivals are solidly on the positive side, especially
in Cuba and the Dominican Republic," Suarez said. "Airlift to most
destinations has increased. Consumer confidence appears strong, the
Euro is strong, the weather is cold in the Northeast -- all these
factors are encouraging for travel to the Caribbean."
Here are some particulars:
• Hotel occupancy in Puerto Rico increased last year to pre 9/11
levels. "At 65% for a year-round average, we approached close to
the figures for 2000, which was a real boom year," said Jose
Suarez, head of the Puerto Rico Tourism Corp.
Puerto Rico's hotel inventory increased by 655 rooms last year,
representing a total investment of $130 million in three new
properties last year: the 255-room Courtyard by Marriott in San
Juan, which opened last January; the 112-room Rincon of the Seas in
Rincon on the West Coast; and the 156-room Wyndham Martineau Bay
Resort & Spa on Vieques, which opened last February.
Openings this year include Paradisus Sol Melia, Puerto Rico's
first all-inclusive opening March 20 in Rio Grande on the island's
East Coast; the Hampton Inn in Cayagas; and the 156-room Costa
Bonita on Culebra.
In addition, construction starts in the first quarter on the
Condado Trio project in San Juan, the Mandarin Oriental in Palmas
del Mar, and the Fairmont Coco Beach, also on the East Coast.
• American Express will launch its "Beyond the Beach" cardmember
promotion and incentive program with 10 island partners Jan. 15.
The partners are Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Barbados, the British
Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic,
Jamaica, St. Martin/Maarten and the Riviera Maya part of
The program, which can be booked from Jan. 15 to April 30 for
travel through August, offers a Vacation Value card for discounts
at shops and restaurants, bonus membership award points and a
one-year subscription to Travel + Leisure magazine.
Credits will be given in the amount of $100 for green-card
members and $150 for gold-, platinum- and centurion-card members
who book through an American Express travel agent and spend more
than $2,000 on their air/land vacation components.
• Wyndham unveiled two new TV commercials airing in the U.S.,
which promote its Wyndham by Request features.
Rich Cortese, executive vice president, reported that Wyndham's
family and FIT business "did well last year. We hope the corporate,
group and incentive business returns this year. If so, it will be a
Wyndham improvements include the addition of 37 new one-, two-
and three-bedroom units at Las Casitas in Fajardo, Puerto Rico,
bringing the total number of units to 156 units, as well as
complementary transfers from the mainland to Vieques; and ongoing
room renovations at Wyndham Rose Hall in Jamaica and Sugar Bay
Beach Resort & Spa in St. Thomas.
In addition, the hotel firm hooked up with Viva Resorts' seven
all-inclusive properties the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and
Mexico to "give us a leg up in inclusive [market] in the
Caribbean," Cortese said.
Viva Resorts' president Ettore Colussi said that the inclusion
of Wyndham "will help us attract the U.S. market to our
• The 228-room Hilton Santo Domingo will open in late spring on
the waterfront in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and will be
targeted at the corporate market.
Meanwhile, the Hilton Barbados will open at the end of 2005, on
the site of its original property near Bridgetown, which was razed
several years ago.
• The Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) will take place
April 28 to 30 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
• Improvements at SuperClubs' resorts include a new Japanese
restaurant at Grand Lido Negril (Jamaica); redone bathrooms at
Hedonism II (also in Negril); and the addition of Internet cafes at
all the resorts, according to president John Issa.
"Tourism looks good for us," Issa said. "Growth in our markets
is positive for the first time in a long time, and the economy
seems to have stabilized."
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].