St. Kitts tourism forecasts a sunnier future

By Gay Nagle Myers

FREEPORT, Bahamas -- Despite a 30% drop in visitors from North America and a similar drop from Europe since Sept. 11, St. Kitts has several reasons for optimism this winter, according to Cliff Hamilton, who takes office Jan. 1 as director of tourism at the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.

"We have had our challenges, but we are hopeful that new air service, a new hotel and a new attraction will boost our visibility," Hamilton said.

• US Airways launches nonstop Saturday service Dec. 7 from Philadelphia to St. Kitts. The new service also signals the arrival of US Airways Vacations and GWV International programs.

• The 471-room Marriott Royal St. Kitts Beach Resort will open Feb. 22, which will increase the number of hotel rooms by 40%.

• The St. Kitts Scenic Railway National Tour will roll down the 30-mile narrow-gauge track for the first time in mid-December. The 10-car, two-deck, 280-seat train will use the same railway built in 1912 to deliver sugar cane from the plantation fields to the sugar mill in Basseterre.

Two narrated excursions will be offered each day.

The St. Kitts Scenic Rail Tour (three hours, 10 minutes) departs from Needsmust Station near Basseterre, heads north counter-clockwise along the coast and back to the starting point.

A longer version (3 hours, 50 minutes) stops midpoint at Brimstone Hill Fortress before completing the tour. Tour prices are $89.50 and $123, respectively, and are commissionable at 10%. A child's fare for those ages 12 and under is half the adult fare.

For cruise passengers, the ticket price includes the transfer from the cruise pier.

A nighttime three-hour dinner tour, priced at $89, could be added in January, according to Steven Hites, president and director of St. Kitts Scenic Railway.

Information about the railway is online at www.stkittsscenicrailway.com.

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