NEW YORK -- To herald the winter season, St. Barts gathered many of its hoteliers, chefs, restaurant owners and island officials and headed north to New York, touting baguettes and brochures for tri-state agents.

Although many of the island's hotels and villas are sold out for the Christmas holidays, "the winter season remains uncertain in terms of bookings," according to Bruno Magras, mayor of St. Barts.

"Business is picking up, and we are hopeful that that trend continues," he said. Magras emphasized that the safety and security of visitors to St. Barts "are our concerns, as well."

Accommodations on St. Barts range from bungalows and cottages to small, four-star hotels and multi-bedroom vacation villas.

Price levels for accommodations range from budget rates to blow-the-bank-account tariffs.

"It is important that agents know there is a price range and a property on St. Barts to suit everyone," Magras said.

Hotel news from St. Barts includes the following:

Gustavia, the capital of St. Barts, is ready for the winter season with new restaurants, new roads and a new outdoor fish market. • Sereno Beach Hotel, next to the Guanahani on Grand Cul de Sac, reopened Nov. 1 after a two-month closure by new owner Andre Balazs. The 32-room property formerly was owned by a French company in Paris.

Michael Rawson, vice president of operations, said Sereno Beach will undergo a major construction program next year.

Changes this year include the arrival of a new chef and an updated room service operation. Next year's projects include a redo of the pool units and the addition of eight suites.

"We want to reposition Sereno as a luxury property," Rawson said. "The construction will be completed before next winter."

Sereno's rates in the 2003-2004 season will be higher as a result. Rates this winter start at $220 per room, per night, double, with breakfast. Packages are available through a number of major operators.

"The New York area represents our major market, and agents provide the bulk of the bookings," Rawson said. "Business is pretty evenly split between U.S. and French clients."

The property originally opened in the 1970s with 18 rooms; 14 beachfront suites were added in 1990. The current general manager is Alistair Maclean.

For details and information, visit the hotel's Web site at www.serenobeach.com.

• La Banane in Lorient completed renovations on its nine bungalows, which now feature contemporary furnishings, DVDs, minibars and patios or gardens.

Facilities include two pools, a reading room and library and a bar. Guests have access to a boat and car and nearby tennis, fishing and water sports.

For information, visit www.labanane.com.

• A new suite will be available this winter at Eden Rock in St. Jean. The property now has 14 units that include suites, rooms, cottages and cabins. Other facilities include a spa, a pool and four restaurants.

Winter rates start at $340 per room, per night, double, with transfers, breakfast and use of kayaks and snorkel gear.

For information, call (877) 563-7105 or visit www.edenrockhotel.com.

• The 75-room Hotel Guanahani on Grand Cul de Sac will again offer its Culinary Festival next fall and will offer packages in conjunction with the St. Bart Music Festival from Jan. 14 to 25 and the St. Bart Film Festival from April 25 to 30.

Winter rack rates start at $500 per room, per night, single or double, with transfers, breakfast, tennis and water sports.

For reservations, call Leading Hotels of the World at (800) 223-6800 or visit www.leguanahani.com.

In other news:

• Delta Airlines will launch three flights a week from Atlanta to St. Maarten on Dec. 7.

• One of the main roads leading into the capital of Gustavia will reopen next month to help relieve congestion in and out of town.

• Espace Gambier at the entrance to Gustavia has been renovated and now features a fish market with the catch of the day on sale.

• • •

St. Barts on the Web

Villa Properties
www.stbarth.com

Destination Information
www.st-barths.com

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI