Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: December 13, 2001

THE CAYMAN ISLANDS Department of Tourism closed its Los Angeles sales office, eliminated 17 positions and downsized its Miami office in preparation for the relocation of U.S. headquarters to New York early next year. Sales offices remain open in Chicago and Houston. McKeeva Bush, minister of tourism, said the destination will launch a new ad and marketing campaign in 2002 and hopes to soon fill the post of director of tourism, vacated by Angela Martins earlier this year.

THE CELEBRATION OF THE SEAS dive festival in the Cayman Islands, planned for Jan. 19 to 26, has been canceled due to lower than expected registration numbers. The induction ceremony planned at the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in George Town, Grand Cayman will take place as scheduled on Jan. 23.

THE LAUNCH of a $16 million regional ad campaign to boost tourism throughout the Caribbean now is planned for February, according to tourism officials who attended the Tourism Summit Dec. 8-10 in Nassau. The campaign, which marks the first such regional effort in more than 10 years, was originally planned for a Nov. 15 start but funding was not in place. Tommy Turnquest, Bahamas' minister of tourism, said the four-month campaign will run on major cable channels in the U.S and Europe. Costs will be shared by public and private sectors.

THE BAHAMAS has continued to receive large numbers of cruise passengers since Sept. 11, despite an overall drop in cruise passengers throughout the region. Turnquest said cruise numbers for 2001 will be higher than the 2.4 million recorded in 2000. Officials at the Tourism Summit will set up a committee to oversee cruise industry development in the Caribbean. The group will be headed by a hotel representative and a member of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.

VACATION EXPRESS launched the first of its fleet of dedicated charter aircraft from its home base in Atlanta. The firm is expanding its Caribbean charter service to Aruba and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and has added Jamaica as a new destination.

PENCIL IN THE NEW tentative dates for the oft-rescheduled Caribbean Tourism Conference, now set for May at Our Lucaya in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. CTC-25, originally set for last October, surfaced briefly as a February event but faded off radar screens just as fast. This time, officials say May is definite, and the firm dates will be announced shortly. Stay tuned.

WIMCO, the Caribbean villa rental company, pays 12% commission on reservations booked by Jan. 31 for stays through November. To view the villas, visit the Web site at

• Cayman Airways' Jump Start 2002 fare sale offers roundtrip prices from $177 for midweek travel from Miami to Grand Cayman. Reservations must be made and paid by Dec. 28; travel is valid through May 19.
• Air Jamaica Express launched nonstop service Dec. 10 from Montego Bay to Port au Prince, Haiti. The service operates Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
• American Airlines will add one more flight a week between New York (Kennedy) and Turks and Caicos Dec. 15 and two more a week beginning Jan. 31 to bring the total to four a week. The line adds a third daily nonstop flight from Miami to Turks and Caicos Dec. 15.
• Nevis' new airport terminal opens in February at Newcastle Airport, three miles from the capital of Charlestown on the north side of the island. Nevis is served by regional carriers from San Juan, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Kitts.

• Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril, Jamaica, (formerly Beaches Inn Resort) reopened last month after being closed for a three-month renovation.
• St. Martin's 370-suite Hotel Mont Vernon reopened Dec. 6 near Orient Beach. The former Blue Bay Club's $1 million renovation included upgrades to guest rooms, beachfront bar, restaurant and landscaping.
• Antigua's Jolly Beach resort now offers a toll-free reservations number at (800) 905-6559.
• Bequia Beach Club in the Grenadines launched a "2 for 1" program which gives a free 10-night stay in the low season to couples who stay two weeks or more in the peak season from Dec. 15 to April 15. The deal applies to stays through 2004.
• At Rosewood's Carenage Bay Resort on Canouan in the Grenadines, a golf course expansion to 18 holes will be completed by March and will cover 250 acres when done.
• The Mandara Spa at Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas, debuted Dec. 12 as the first stage of the $2 million Atlantis Sports Center featuring a fitness facility, tennis courts, a lap pool and an 18-hole putting course.
• Colony Club Hotel in Barbados has adopted an adults-only policy through June and again from Sept 16 onwards. From June 1 to Sept. 15, the 96-room resort will welcome kids with an activity program and baby-sitting services. Colony Club is a member of Elegant Hotels Group, with five properties in Barbados and one in Antigua.
• Point Grace on Providenciales in Turks and Caicos opens its new Thalassotherapy Spa this month.

THE WATER CLUB in San Juan, which opened in October, has slashed rates by 50% for the high season. Rates at the 84-room beachfront boutique hotel are $199 per night, single or double through April 30.

ANTIGUA RESORTS' three properties are paying 26% commission on new bookings for inclusive plans on stays of five nights or more through Jan. 31. The resorts are Galley Bay, Royal Antiguan and St. James's Club.

THE NEW PRESIDENT of the St. Thomas/St. John Hotel & Tourism Association is Jayne Hillner, general manager of Marriott's Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Beach Resorts in St. Thomas. Hillner replaced Richard Doumeng, general manager of Bolongo Bay Beach Club on St. Thomas, who served for four years.

SCENT OF A RESORT: Club Med is teaming up with Coty Inc. to market the inclusive resort firm's fragrance called My Ocean, touted as "an evocative version of the Club Med experience with an ocean-crisp scent that symbolizes refreshing leisure vacations." My Ocean will be available nationwide in March.

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