Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: April 25, 2002

WITH $17 MILLION budgeted for advertising and promotion in 2002, Charles Turnbull, governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, predicted that tourism numbers will continue to rebound after the Sept. 11 attacks. Speaking at the 9th annual Virgin Islands Symposium in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Turnbull cited tourism projects that include a $75 million expansion at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, an $80 million investment to develop Carifest theme park on St. Thomas and the construction of a 680-room resort with a casino and 18-hole golf course set for St. Croix.

NEWS FROM THE SYMPOSIUM:
• Indicators for the winter season show that the local hotel industry was not hit as hard by fallout from the terrorist attacks as first feared. Compared to 2001, hotel occupancies for St. Thomas and St. John were down only slightly in January and February, while March proved a bonanza month for several hotels on St. Thomas. St. Croix was hit harder, suffering losses most months during the winter season.
• To boost off-season business, a new ad and promotion campaign is set to launch next month to run through September. In addition, August once again was designated as Travel Agent Month on St. Thomas and St. John in which agents will receive three free nights at a choice of 14 participating properties, discounts on attractions and activities and discounted air.
• Meanwhile, Greg Thorne, with New York-based Inter-Island Tours, said he has increased his commitment to the destination and will distribute a new brochure with his programs to 3,000 U.S. agencies this month. Inter-Island Tours "is committed to retaining our 13% commission on air and land packages," he added.

MONDAY MADNESS has come to Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort on Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas. The new incentive program, designed to spur on agent bookings at the resort, pays double commissions on all reservations (except group bookings) made on specific dates to be announced throughout the year. The first date in the series is April 29. The promotion is valid on bookings made the entire day, for travel anytime. To earn the extra pay, call (877) 687-5822 on the specified day and ask for the Monday Madness Special. In the future, agents will be notified about additional Monday Madness dates by fax blast shortly before the booking date.

IN MARCH, Sandals and Beaches Resorts registered its first year-over-year increase in bookings since Sept. 11, according to Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman. Reservations taken in March by Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Sandals' largest distributor, jumped 30% over the same period a year ago, reported Michael Norton, Gogo's vice president of Caribbean marketing. The inclusive resort chain will open five resorts this year: Beaches Boscobel in Jamaica on June 1; the first Sandals in Cuba (450 rooms) in September; a hotel in Anguilla in July; the former Hyatt Regency St. Lucia -- whose takeover is expected to be completed this month -- reopening in mid-July as the Sandals Grand St. Lucia; and the former Dragon Bay Beach Resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica, opening in November as the Port Antonio Spa Village. Stewart said Sandals has not yet decided if the Port Antonio property will carry the Sandals or Beaches brand -- or perhaps none so as to "better emphasize the destination rather than the brand." Meanwhile, the 360-room, $62 million Beaches Whitehouse, under construction an hour and 15 minutes from Montego Bay, is slated to open in December 2003.

LODGEPODGE
• The 300-room Wyndham Sugar Bay Beach Club & Resort on St. Thomas will debut its 10,000-square-foot, $1.5 million Journeys Spa in June, at which time the resort officially will change its name to Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa. The two-level spa facility will be the largest in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the first to offer hydrotherapy treatments, as well as a full range of massage and body services, a fitness center and salon.
• The 21-suite Grace Bay Club in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, offers two new summer packages and a new spa ritual plan, all valid through Dec. 19. A three-night getaway program, offered from May 27 to July 1, is priced at $965 per couple, for oceanfront junior suite accommodations, two dinners and daily breakfast. Guests must arrive on Monday or Tuesday. For details, visit the Web site at www.gracebayclub.com.
• Sandy Lane resort on Barbados has a pair of value-added packages with savings up to 30% through Oct. 31. Active Choice and Family Fun plans feature 10 nights for price of seven nights, with nightly rates from $210 per person, double, or five nights for the price of four, with nightly rates from $240 per person, double. Nightly summer rates start at $600 per room, double, with breakfast. The resort will open a third Tom Fazio-designed golf course -- the Green Monkey -- in November. For information, call (866) 444-4080 or visit www.sandylane.com.
• Coral Hotels & Resorts' new Guavaberry Golf & Country Club opens in June in Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic, near the 584-room Coral Costa Caribe Beach Hotel & Casino. Facilities include the 18-hole, Gary Player-designed golf course; a clubhouse with a gourmet restaurant; a bar; a pool; meeting rooms; and a pro shop.
• Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, St. Lucia, created the junior suite room category for families or couples traveling together. The new suite consists of two bedrooms, each with a mini-bar, cable TV, covered terrace and sun terrace. Nightly rates through Dec. 20 are $275 per junior suite, including a free massage for two adults at Windjammer's Serenity Spa. Discounted inclusive rates are an additional $80 per day, per adult, and $40 per child. Through May 15, there is a $100 food and beverage credit when seven nights are booked. For details, visit the Web site at www.windjammer-landing.com.
• Divi Resorts scrapped the April 14 booking deadline for its Kids Stay and Eat Free program, applicable to children 17 and younger. Now, any bookings made and completed prior to Dec. 14 qualify. The offer applies to stays at eight Divi properties. Not participating is the adults-only Divi Heritage Beach Resort in Barbados. The free-stay/free food offer is for each child sharing a room with an adult, with food selections made from the children's menu. For information, call (888) 432-1116 or check the Web site at www.diviresorts.com.

SUPERCLUBS' new Presidential Perks plan, now available at Grand Lido Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, through Dec. 19, includes a private concierge, a chef to whip up a personalized dinner for two, daily spa treatments and accommodations in an oceanfront penthouse suite. The package carries a minimum booking of five nights or more; the price starts at $2,500 per person, double. Agents earn a $500 cash bonus on top of the regular commission. For details, call (800) GO-SUPER or visit www.superclubs.com.

DISCOVER RESORTS International is paying 50% commission on a first-time booking at 20-suite Samana Bay Village on the Samana Peninsula in the Dominican Republic. To qualify, stays must be booked by May 31 with travel completed by Oct. 14. Rates range from $99 to $159 per night, double. A $199 per week meal plan is offered and also qualifies for the commission. Also, agents get a 50% discount on their first visit to the property through April 2003. For details, call (877) 934-7268.

BEGINNING MAY 14, the Disney Magic will call on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, on alternate Tuesdays and remain in port for the majority of the day. This port call is part of Disney Cruise Lines' seven-night Western Caribbean route, which departs from Port Canaveral, Fla., and also includes stops in Key West, Fla.; Cozumel, Mexico; and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. For rates and details, visit www.disneycruise.com.

AMONG HOTELS offering packages or special rates during the 15th annual Curacao Heineken Jazz Festival are the Avila Beach Hotel, Curacao Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel and SuperClubs Breezes Curacao. At Avila Beach, the four-night package starting May 30 is priced at $999 per person, single or double, and covers nightly tickets to the festival May 31 to June 2. For details, visit www.avilahotel.com. Rates at Curacao Howard Johnson start at $80 per night, single, or $85 per night, double. For information, call (599) 9-462-7800. Through June 30, Breezes Curacao features rates from $180 per person, double, with a minimum stay of two nights required. To book, call (800) GO-SUPER or visit www.superclubs.com.

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