CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -- Little Nevis, the 14-square-mile sibling to its larger, better-known sister island of St. Kitts, is growing up.

A code share launched by US Airways with Nevis Express makes it a whole lot easier -- and faster -- to connect to Nevis from San Juan.

Nevis Express services, operated with 19-seat Beech 1900 aircraft, link with US Airways' daily flights serving San Juan from Charlotte, N.C., and Philadelphia as well as with weekend flights from Pittsburgh.

The code-share deal is a component of US Airways' Go Caribbean initiative, designed to bring more efficient air service to the region through commuter and regional air connections to the smaller islands.

Visitors to Nevis will have another air option Dec. 7, when US Airways introduces St. Kitts service from its U.S. hubs.

Connections to Nevis will be available via a six-minute Nevis Express flight or a 45-minute ferry ride.

To commemorate the new air link with US Airways -- as well as expanded flight schedules to Nevis offered by Caribbean Star, LIAT and Winair -- a 24,000-square-foot terminal building opened this month at Newcastle Airport, said Helen Kidd, chief executive officer of the year-old Nevis Tourism Authority.

"The runway was extended to 4,020 feet two years ago," Kidd said. "With our new terminal, we are now in the big leagues."

White-sand beaches on Nevis are wide and uncrowded. Visitors to the island have a choice of beaches, water sports, accommodations and ways to relax. Howard Taylor, general manager for the Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority, said the goal of the new facility "is to provide our visitors with a positive experience at their arrival and departure point in Nevis."

He said the airport improvements signal a focus on major improvements in the tourism sector "as Nevis moves forward in the 21st century."

Taking advantage of the new air services and facilities, the tourism authority plans joint marketing and sales promotions with US Airways this summer in the carrier's key U.S. markets.

Other developments on Nevis:

• An islandwide road upgrade will be completed this summer, including the 21-mile road that rings the island.

• The first phase of the 26-unit Villa Paradiso opens in September near the Four Seasons Resort Nevis and Pinney's Beach. Three four-bedroom Balinese-style villas will feature air-conditioning, ceiling fans, a full kitchen, maid service and Internet and fax access.

Long-term plans include a great house and restaurant, a music bar and lounge, a library, a health club, two tennis courts, a beachfront cafe and a private dock. Although the villas will be individually owned, they will be placed in the island's hotel room inventory when available.

• The 17-room Montpelier Plantation Inn, on the slopes of Mount Nevis, was bought by an American couple who plan to keep the inn's name as is.

The property will close from August through Oct. 12 for renovations and upgrades, including the addition of e-mail access for guests.

• The 32-room Mount Nevis Hotel & Beach Club, north of Pinney's Beach, added a small business center and a meeting room that can handle up to 80 people for corporate gatherings.

• A 35-villa property 10 miles from the airport is slated to begin construction later this year. The first part of its three-phase opening will be in 2004.

Nevis has 460 rooms available in hotels and villas, and Kidd said "a ceiling of 900 rooms islandwide is envisioned."

Visitor figures for Nevis for 2001 were down prior to Sept. 11 due to the economy, lack of airlift and the high fares on air services that were available, she added.

"We were pleasantly surprised with the visitor numbers for the first quarter of this year," Kidd said. "Late bookings boosted occupancies, which helped the slower periods."

The U.S. market "is our bread and butter, and the Northeast area is the strongest," Kidd said. An up-and-coming market for Nevis is Atlanta, which Kidd described as an "emerging market that tourism officials want to encourage."

'Nevis...Naturally!'

Phone: (866) 55-NEVIS

Web:www.nevisisland.com

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