Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter July 24, 2003

A SINGLE CARIBBEAN TOURISM BODY was the message delivered by Jean Holder, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, at a recent seminar on best practices in public and private sector cooperation on Barbados. Holder called for a merger of the CTO and the Caribbean Hotel Association. He said the two regional bodies -- which more than 50 years ago were part of the same Caribbean Tourist Association -- need to combine resources to tackle such issues as economic crises, uncertainties facing airlines and travel agents and shifting consumer desires. Holder also said that a Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Organization would help the region overcome the endless debates on how the public and private sectors need to come together.

ARUBA's Assembly of Ministers approved the use of the euro as the accepted form of payment on the island. Residents and visitors will pay with euros, but change will be given in Aruban florins. "The introduction of the euro in Aruba will benefit [the island], considering the strong ties Aruba has with the Netherlands and the European Union," according to a statement from the ministers. No date has been set for the conversion.

CUBA RATES #1 with Travel + Leisure readers as the top island destination in the Caribbean, according to results from the publication's World's Best Awards 2003 which appear in the August issue of T+L. The selection of Cuba, which ranked #8 last year in the same survey, "highlights a trend toward destinations that seem authentic and real," according to Nancy Novogrod, editor in chief. Other islands in the top five in the region include Bermuda, the Grenadines, St. John and Virgin Gorda.

STRONG NUMBERS for the Turks and Caicos were reported by John Skippings, director of tourism. First-quarter figures jumped 53% over the same period a year ago, for a total of 81,955 overnight and cruise ship visitors. The tourist-only figure of 48,636 included a large block of honeymooners, up 30% in that market. "We are getting back on track," Skippings said. "We will continue to work with our partners and airlines to ensure our destination continues to meet the challenges. We also will continue to develop new niche markets."

LODGEPODGE
• Elite Island Resorts' new seven-night Fly Free program, valid for new bookings for weekend travel to Antigua and St. Lucia through August, features free air on US Airways' nonstop flights from Philadelphia and many US Airways feeder cities. Per person, double, rates with free air at participating inclusive Antigua properties include: Royal Antiguan Beach & Tennis Resort, from $899; Grand Pineapple Beach, from $1,049; St. James's Club, from $1,149. Rates with air at St. Lucia inclusive resorts include: St. James's Club, Morgan Bay, from $949, and Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, from $1,449. Children ages 2 to 12 are $399. Commission is 15%; all passengers must pay a mandatory $59 FAA tax. For details, visit www.eliteislandresorts.com.
• Sandals launched a $100,000 St. Lucia Sweepstakes to promote its three properties on St. Lucia. The travel agent "earn and learn" promotion is a trivia contest of 25 questions based on Sandals' new, four-color brochure on its St. Lucia resorts. Agents must send in their completed entries by Sept. 15 to be eligible for prizes that range from a six-night stay at any Sandals on St. Lucia with first-class roundtrip air on Air Jamaica to a three-night stay at Sandals Halcyon, St. Lucia with roundtrip air. For details, call (800) 48-SPECIAL.
• Agents can book clients' tee times in advance at Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort, Nassau by logging on to the resort's Web site at www.radisson-cablebeach.com. The resort recently completed a redesign of its 18-hole course and includes free greens fees as part of its all-inclusive program.
• Anguilla's Cap Juluca offers one-week Mind, Body and Spirit wellness programs with four practitioners and treatments that include spiritual astrology, yoga and intuitive healing. Program dates are Nov. 15 to 22 and Dec. 16 to 23 plus eight dates in 2004. Treatments are offered a la carte, with rates ranging from $30 to $190 per person, depending on the session. Daily rates at Cap Juluca, through Dec. 19, 2004, range from $325 to $980 per room, double. For info, call (888) 858-5822.
• Bolongo Bay Beach Club, St. Thomas, offers rates from $99 per room, per night, double, EP, through August. The 65-room resort's semi-inclusive Continental Plan is $125 per room, per night, double (daily breakfast, non-motorized water sports and other extras); the all-inclusive rate is $315 per room, per night, double. For info, call (800) 524-4746 or visit www.bolongobay.com.

GRAND BAHAMA VACATIONS' getaway packages are valid through Aug. 5 for travel Aug. 1 to Sept. 20. Sample rates for a three-night plan with air and hotels from Cincinnati; Richmond, Va.; Cleveland; Memphis start at $169 per person, double. Other U.S. gateways include Raleigh/Durham, N.C. and Tampa. Fl. Government taxes are extra; air and hotel are not sold separately. To book, call (800) 545-1399.

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