Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: December 20, 2001

CARIBBEAN HOTELS and resorts plan to mark Santa's arrival Dec. 25 with a variety of celebrations for guests, including rum 'n reggae in Jamaica, craft markets in Antigua and beach barbecues in St. Lucia. Beaches Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, will host an eggnog reception as Santa sails in from the Caribbean sea. At Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas, Santa arrives by motorboat while a sea kayak is his preferred mode at Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

HILTON INT'L is returning to Haiti. The hotel chain signed a 10-year contract to manage the new 190-room Hilton d'Haiti at Port au Prince Airport. The $55 million hotel is slated to open in mid-2003. Hilton is the first big hotel chain to return to Haiti since Club Med and Holiday Inn pulled out in 1999. The full-service property, which will target international business travelers, will be the ninth in Hilton's Caribbean portfolio.

THE VENUE for the annual Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference "CHIC" in June is Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Country Club in Fajardas, Puerto Rico. The exact dates are expected to be announced shortly, so stay tuned.

DATES have been set for the following confabs:
• Dominican Republic Travel Exchange (DATE), Punta Cana, April 11 to 13.
• Jamaican Product Exchange (Japex), Ocho Rios, April 14 to 16.
• Cayman Islands Marketplace 2002, Grand Cayman, May 2 to 5.
• Sixth Annual Bonaire Dive Festival, Bonaire, June 15 to 22.

ST. LUCIA'S new minister of tourism (plus commerce, investment and public affairs) is Philip J. Pierre, who last served in the same post in 1997. Pierre, whose term of office is five years, replaced Menissa A. Rambally.

LODGEPODGE:
• Spanish Bay Reef Resort on Grand Cayman will reopen Jan. 15. The property, which had been closed for renovations, delayed its expected opening date due to damage from Hurricane Michelle in November.
• Lionstone Hotels & Resorts now handles reservations for the Sheraton Curacao Resort and the Bushiri Beach Resort in Aruba at (866) 974-LION. Bushiri bookings can also be made through CHARMS, the official res service of the Caribbean Hotel Association, at (800) 74-CHARMS. Sheraton Curacao can also be booked at www.curacaosheraton.com.
• Daphne's, the London restaurant celebrity haunt, opens its first restaurant in Barbados this month at Tamarind Cove hotel, replacing Bamboo restaurant and bar. Tamarind also has two other restaurants.
• The casino at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Bonaire reopened with more slot machines.

AIR BYTES:
• Continental will launch year-round Saturday service from Cleveland to Nassau Dec. 22.
• Island Air in the Cayman Islands added a new 19-seater Jetstream aircraft to provide four nonstop 20-minute flights daily between Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

THE CAYMAN ISLANDS will host of group of 90 New York City fire and rescue workers and their families Feb. 19 to 23. This move parallels the efforts of support offered by other islands in the wake of Sept. 11, such as St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Thomas.

THE NEW COO for Elegant Hotels Group in Barbados is Gildas Renaux. Renaux formerly managed six hotels in Morocco for Hoteles Sol Melia. Elegant Hotels has five properties in Barbados and one in Antigua.

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