Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: April 17, 2003

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE U.S. Virgin Islands' 10th annual Destination Symposium, held recently in St. Thomas, included the debut of a new logo touting the territory as America's Caribbean; a new TV and radio campaign that plays on Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land;" dedicated toll-free lines operated in partnerships with American Airlines Vacations and US Airways Vacations' tour packages; and the launch of a small hotels program under the name USVirgInns. Pamela C. Richards, commissioner of tourism, said that air arrivals in January and February increased slightly over the same period in 2002, although cruise arrivals declined. A marketing partnership between American Express and the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Assn. is set to launch in June.

ISLAND DESTINATIONS' Ultimate Undercover Escape, a five-night, high-end lovers' rendezvous, carries a $129,100 price tag. The over-the-top getaway will take place at a Caribbean villa of guests' choice within the operator's collection of 43 hotels, resorts and villas in the Caribbean, Mexico, French Polynesia and Fiji. The price includes roundtrip air on a private jet, a sprawling villa with a discreet staff, spa treatments, breakfast in bed and beachfront dinners, a silk dress, lingerie and champagne. Although the escapade requires that travelers need only supply a companion and a good alibi to explain the five-night absence, the package is open to monogamous couples as well. Devious duos who forgo some of the pricier inclusions, settle for first-class air instead of a private jet and a penthouse instead of a villa shell out only $34,000. Both packages pay 10% commission, a nice chunk of change. For more information, visit www.islanddestinations.com.

THE 5TH ANNUAL Sustainable Tourism Development Conference, set for April 23-26 on St. Kitts, has been postponed. Conference officials said that airlift was not available to get participants to St. Kitts because of the volume of holiday traffic in the Caribbean. A future date will be announced.

LODGEPODGE
• Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, one of two inclusive resorts in St. Thomas (the other is Bolongo Bay Beach Club), now also offers a room-only plan, effective May 1. Kicking off the new EP option is a room rate of $99 per night, single or double, for bookings made by June 30 for travel through Dec. 19, based on a three-night minimum stay. Abdel Zouari, recently named general manager, said that business guests in particular wanted the convenience of a room-only rate plans. Zouari replaced longtime manager Rik Blyth who left Wyndham to form a spa consulting business in St. Thomas.
• Hilton Caribbean added Barbados to its roster of Caribbean destinations with the recent groundbreaking of the 353-room, $90 million Hilton Barbados, set to debut in late 2004. The property sits on the site of the former Barbados Hilton near Bridgetown, the capital, and will include the first of Hilton's three-zone Relaxation Rooms, designed for working, relaxing and bathing. Hilton has 13 hotels and resorts in the Caribbean.

IN THE NEWS
• Couples Resorts named Gary Stephens as director of operations. He served as general manager of Couples Negril since 1998, and he will be based in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
• The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourism Board appointed Melanie Alexander sales and marketing agent to head the new U.S. office in Arlington, Mass., which serves markets in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. The office, the second in the U.S., is located at 62 Paul Revere Rd., Suite 2, Arlington, Mass., 02476; the phone number is (781) 648-1583, and the e-mail address is [email protected]. The tourism board also has an office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
• John M. Scott III has been appointed president and CEO of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. He was formerly managing director of Maritz, Wolff & Co., which owns 50% of Rosewood and 17 luxury properties worldwide. Scott succeeded James F. Brown, who had served Rosewood for five years, and left "to purse other opportunities in the hotel management business," the company said.

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