Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: July 4, 2002

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE canceled 36 port calls scheduled for St. Croix in the coming season aboard its new, 1,848-passenger Zuiderdam. A spokesman cited concerns regarding passenger safety. Earlier this year, Carnival Cruise Lines canceled 52 calls by the Triumph and Victory for the coming season, and Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky opted not to return to St. Croix. Lack of demand for the destination, as well as passenger safety concerns, were cited as reasons. U.S. Virgin Islands' tourism officials planned to meet with Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association representatives to develop solutions to reverse the lines' decisions.

CLUB MED is wooing agents with increased commissions, a new incentive package and an extension of its Open Bar program. The new 12% commission (up from 10%) is targeted at agents who complete the Club Med specialist program and visit at least one property a year. Under the terms of the new 777 incentive program, every booking of three or more nights earns agents one free night for their clients. John Vanderslice, president and CEO, Club Med Americas, said the 777 program was created in response to feedback received after 5,000 agents signed up for Club Med's recent Vacation on Us promotion, enabling them to visit Club Med villages free of charge. The Open Bar bracelet program, commissionable at 10%, is now offered at nearly every North American Club Med village. Rates start at $170 for adults and $60 for children.

IN OTHER NEWS, Club Med Columbus Isle in the Bahamas will reopen Dec. 14, and the firm's Playa Blanca property in Mexico will reopen at a date still to be determined. Fifteen of the chain's 120 villages were closed temporarily after Sept. 11. Vanderslice expects the properties to reopen based on client demand. Meanwhile, the chain is looking at a new development near Cancun which would share flight service with Club Med's existing Cancun village.

A REGIONAL TOURISM Strategic Plan, mandated by Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders last December, is under scrutiny at the Heads of Government meeting July 3 to 5 in Georgetown, Guyana. Jean Holder, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said the plan addresses several issues facing the region's tourism sector, including air and sea access; the region's marketplace image; and protection and promotion of the environment. The plan presents a vision of where the Caribbean needs to be in the next 10 years and contains some 80 recommendations, including proposals for sustainable funding from sources such as airline ticket and cruise passenger taxes.

US AIRWAYS VACATIONS offers up to 35% reductions on package rates for bookings made and paid by July 16 for travel through Dec. 14. New bookings from clients who pay by MasterCard and complete their travel by Oct. 31 entitle them to a free three-piece set of Samsonite Streamlite II luggage (a $239 value). US Airways' Caribbean packages include roundtrip air, hotel, transfers, hotel taxes, service charges and international travel taxes up to $97.50 per person. For details, visit www.usairwaysvacations.com.

LODGEPODGE
• Spa Dragon will be the name of the former Dragon Bay resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica, which was purchased last year by Sandals Resorts Int'l. The 100-room resort will open next February and will feature gondolas on canals leading to the local Blue Lagoon. To facilitate access to Port Antonio, the local airport's runway will be lengthened and lights installed for night landings.
• The 300-room Sandals White House on Jamaica's south coast will open in December 2003 with an extensive spa and loads of sports activities. The property's design will employ the village concept used at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort & Spa with Caribbean, Dutch and Italian-style architecture.
• Sandals plans to open its Cuba resort by year's end, and its first property in the Dominican Republic by winter 2004.
• Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino on Palm Beach offers 25% off rack rates for new bookings made by July 19 for travel through Dec. 19. Rates through Sept. 27 start at $173 per night, double; from Sept. 28 to Dec. 19, the minimum is $180. Check the Web site at www.radisson.com/palmbeachaw for details.

PENCIL IT IN
• Crop Over Festival, Barbados, July 13 to Aug. 5.
• Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, Jamaica, July 21 to 27.
• Culturama 2002, Nevis, July 25 to Aug. 6.
• Jerkfest 2002, SuperClubs Hedonism III, Runaway Bay, Jamaica, Oct. 3 to 6.

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