Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: February 6, 2003

LANDING AND PASSENGER FEES in the U.S. Virgin Islands increased by 25% on Feb. 1. After backing down from implementing increases last year when airline executives vowed to cut back services or stop serving the territory altogether if the hikes took effect, the Virgin Islands Port Authority introduced the higher fees and said they are necessary to offset a deficit of $5 million in the authority's Aviation Division in fiscal 2003. The new fees are expected to reduce the deficit by 60%, to $2 million. Representatives of American, American Eagle and Delta declined comment, so it's unclear if---or how---they will react. Fees for passengers arriving in the U.S.V.I. increased to $3.24 per person from $2.59; departing passengers are charged $9.63, up from $7.70; and landing fees jumped to $3.13 from $2.50 per 1,000 pounds.

ISLAND DESTINATIONS, a luxury tour operator whose programs include resorts in Barbados, St. Barts, St. Thomas and Turks and Caicos, now offers a Peace of Mind cancellation and trip change protection plan that guarantees agent commissions even when clients cancel a trip. Travelers can cancel or change their travel plans for any reason at any time prior to scheduled flight departure without penalty. The operator's previous plan required notification within 24 hours for cancellations or changes. The new plan, which starts at $39 per person for both land and air portions, comes with a 24-hour hotline at (888) 454-4422. The operator's Web site is at www.islanddestinations.com.

CLUB MED will officially launch a travel agent Web site at www.clubmedta.com on Valentine's Day. It will enable agents to book Club Med packages online through VAXVacationAccess, provide special promotions and offer sales specialist training. John Vanderslice, president and CEO of Club Med Americas, said the launch is part of Club Med's "strategy to support agents throughout North America."

US AIRWAYS' new daily nonstop service from Philadelphia to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, takes off Feb. 15, with roundtrip fares from $400.

PENCIL IT IN
• Bahamas Heritage Festival, March 4-8, Arawak Cay, Nassau. The festival will showcase Bahamian traditions, artisans and folklore. The event, sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, mirrors the Smithsonian Institute's Festival of American Folklife, held in Washington, D.C. in 1994.
• Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, April 10-12, Barcelo Bavaro Convention Center, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
• Seventh Annual Bonaire Dive Festival, June 14-21, Bonaire. Festival packages are available from Aqua Dreams at www.aquadreams.com, Caradonna Caribbean Tours at www.caradonna.com and Maduro Dive Fanta-Seas at www.maduro.com. Festival information can be found at www.scubadiving.com/bonairefest.

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