MIAMI -- The booking window lengthened this year, a trend that pleased officials at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, who viewed this as a good omen.

"When clients start planning and booking further out than we have seen in the past year, it's a good sign," said Victor Lopez, divisional vice president.

Although Lopez -- whose area of responsibilities includes 25 Hyatt resorts in the Caribbean, the continental U.S. and Hawaii -- said he does not think business patterns will return to normal until 2004, he is pleased with developments in Hyatt's Caribbean resorts in Aruba, the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico.

"The year was better than we thought it would be," Lopez said. "Although overall business was flat, there were upticks on and off during the year."

He said Hyatt "is hoping for a growth pattern between 3% and 4% in 2003."

"We will continue our aggressive program of renovation and renewal with an emphasis on resort amenities and design features," Lopez said.

Although no new properties are on the boards, Hyatt "is always looking for opportunities," he said.

"We will explore new ventures and destinations, such as Curacao and St. Martin, where we have had some talks."

The following is an update of Hyatt's Caribbean properties:

• Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino. The 360-room property on Palm Beach expanded its catamaran boat dock and pier to offer more room for drinking and dining. The new Piet's Bar on the pier opened Dec. 20.

New this year is the property's sushi bar, which has "done very well," Lopez said. Facilities also include a three-level pool with waterfalls, a water-sports complex, a health-and-fitness center and spa, tennis courts, a casino, four restaurants and bars.

Guestroom bathrooms will be remodeled in 2003.

• Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman. "Business picked up quite well this year at this resort," according to Lopez.

The 289-room resort on Seven Mile Beach will begin construction on a second ballroom facility in June.

"We badly need an extra ballroom to supplement our larger facility," Lopez said. "The hotel attracts a lot of group and corporate business functions, and the ballroom is in constant use."

• Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club and Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach Resort & Casino, both in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

On the heels of a $55 million, multiyear refurbishing program at both resorts is a $22 million renovation and redesign of the four championship golf courses shared by the sister resorts, including six new holes.

Lopez said Hyatt is spending more than $6.5 million on Cerromar's new clubhouse -- a state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot facility that will serve as the centerpiece of the new Cerromar Plantation Country Club.

Dorado's 36 new beachfront Su Casa Cottages opened in August, and its 298 guest rooms were remodeled a year ago.

A new Johnny Rockets restaurant will open next May at Cerromar.

Still to come is a $10 million Mediterranean Village that will be set on the north side of the Dorado property.

Lopez said that ground already has been cleared and construction "could start as early as February, with the opening in a year."

The village squares found in Italy and Spain, complete with small shops, cobblestone courtyards and cafes, constitute the design theme of the village.

"This will offer a new venue for groups and another outlet for resort amenities, such as a water park and restaurants and cafes that serve Spanish cuisine and Mexican dishes," Lopez said.

Also on tap is a free-standing spa, set to open in early 2004.

For more information, contact Hyatt Hotels & Resorts at (800) 55-HYATT or visit www.hyatt.com.

Hyatt offers agents holiday bonuses

MIAMI -- Hyatt agent incentives are helping pump up the holidays with seasonal specials.

Here is what was under the Christmas tree:

• Winter Sunshine on Sale. This a free-night offer that varies by resort, available Jan. 3 through April 20. Bonuses also vary but can include a free day at Camp Hyatt, an hour of tennis and a discount on beach toys.

In addition to the free nights, guests receive two $100 flight credits per reservation, good toward roundtrip travel up to one year on any airline and any flight worldwide.

• 35% Off Sale. The program offers discounts up to 35% off published rates for three nights from Jan. 2 through April 17 or Jan. 3 through Feb. 28, depending on the resort. Travel must be booked through participating wholesalers.

• Slice of Paradise. A free night is awarded to agents who book four nights for a client by Nov. 15 for client travel between April 1 and Dec. 10.

Free-night certificates for agent use can be used for agent travel between June 1 and May 31, 2004. -- G.N.M.

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