CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -- Visitors arriving at Newcastle Airport here this winter are in for a big surprise.

Gone is the quaint, one-room shack of the past; in its place is a 24,000-square-foot facility, complete with state-of-the-art technology that includes X-ray security devices, closed-circuit TV monitoring systems, an elevator, a baggage carousel and an advanced air-conditioning system.

Helen Kidd, CEO of the Nevis Tourism Authority, said the new terminal "brings Nevis into the 21st century in terms of security and design."

Baggage handling and customs services are more efficient, so visitors are processed more quickly, she said.

Echoing Kidd's sentiments was Howard Taylor, general manager for the Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority.

"The goal of the new airport is to provide our visitors with a positive experience at their arrival and departure point in Nevis," Taylor said.

The facility already has attracted new air service to neighboring St. Kitts, a seven-minute flight from Nevis via Nevis Express.

US Airways launched a weekly nonstop flight from Philadelphia to St. Kitts on Dec. 7; the line earlier had introduced weekly service from Charlotte, N.C., to St. Kitts.

Kidd said a number of small inns and plantation properties have refurbished for the winter season. These include:

• The new American owners of the 17-room Montpelier Plantation Inn & Beach Club, on the slopes of Mount Nevis, completed a cosmetic update of the property during its two-month closure in late summer.

One new feature is the addition of e-mail for guests; an expansion of dining facilities is next on the agenda.

• The 34-room Oualie Beach Hotel added a small spa with a gym and massage rooms.

• Three four-bedroom villas opened this fall as the first phase of the expansion at the 26-unit Villa Paradiso.

The units combine Balinese and Caribbean architecture and design; each unit features air conditioning, ceiling fans, a full kitchen, maid service and Internet and fax access.

• The 196-room Four Seasons Resort Nevis will open its spa this month.

Jeff French, director of marketing for the resort, said "the goal is to create a relaxing setting for our guests to unwind."

The spa menu reflects indigenous offerings as well as traditional and signature treatments, which include massages, herbal wraps, facials, manicures and pedicures. Three of the 12 treatment rooms are outdoors.

Nevis counts approximately 700 rooms in hotels and villas, and Kidd said "a ceiling of 1,200 rooms islandwide is envisioned."

The Nevis Tourism Authority, which recently completed renovations of its offices in the 16th century Treasury Building in Charlestown, "is still in its infancy," Kidd said. "We are making inroads and progress."

Although tourism figures for 2002 are not yet complete, Kidd said tourism officials were "pleasantly surprised earlier this year."

"Late bookings boosted occupancies and helped compensate for the slower periods."

Traffic from the U.S. in the first seven months of the year was up 18% compared with the same period a year ago.

Kidd said the North American market to Nevis "is traditionally agent-born."

"Agents account for most of the bookings into Nevis, and they are our partners."

The Nevis Tourism Authority will increase its fam trips from three this year to six in 2003 (three from the U.S., two from Europe and one from the Caribbean), she said.

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