Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter June 12, 2003

CARIBBEAN TOURISM Organization representatives, meeting in New York June 1 through 6 for Caribbean Week, formed an Air Transportation Services Committee to study route structures, airline incentives, airport policies and the needs of regional airlines. Pamela Richards, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands, heads the committee. Additional new committees, also chaired by tourism heads, will focus on cruising, marketing, research and information management, sustainable tourism development and funding, and human resources. Obie Wilchombe, CTO chairman and Bahamas minister of tourism, said a task force was appointed to work with the West Indies Cricket Board in preparation for the World Cricket Cup, which will be held in various Caribbean venues April and May of 2007. The event is expected to reach an audience of "1.7 billion TV viewers and to bring thousands of spectators to the region," Wilchombe said.

THE SAN JUAN BEACH HOTEL is the new name of the former Ramada San Juan hotel, according to Raul Bustamante, president and owner of Phoenix Hotel Management Corp. and RB Management Corp. Bustamante acquired the 95-room beachfront property in the Condado area of San Juan in October 1999 and poured $3 million into a refurbishment program that included guestrooms, the pool, elevators and public areas. All rooms overlook the Atlantic Ocean or the Condado lagoon and feature cable television; radios with a CD player; an iron and ironing board; and a hairdryer. Other facilities and services include the Aqua Restaurant, four meetings rooms and Internet access in public areas. For reservations, call (800) 468-2040 or visit www.sanjuanbeachhotel.com.

ANOTHER PUERTO RICO PROPERTY in the news is the new $152 million, 416-room Fairmont Coco Beach Resort in the Rio Grande area, 25 miles east of San Juan. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will invest approximately $9.5 million for a minority equity interest and will manage the resort with the option to participate in the development of a vacation ownership property on a 20-acre parcel of land adjacent to the resort. Construction of the resort is slated to begin this fall, with a projected opening for late 2005. The resort's main developer is the Betteroads Asphalt Corp., the largest asphalt producer and paving company in the Caribbean. The Hotel Development Corp. and the Tourism Development Fund, both Puerto Rico government entities, are investors in the project as well.

HALF MOON RESORT in Montego Bay, Jamaica, plans a major renovation program between July 1 and Nov. 30. The resort will remain open throughout the project, which will affect less than five of the property's 400 acres. The 50-year-old blocks of superior and junior suites in the main hotel buildings and cottages will be demolished and replaced with clusters of rooms and suites with balconies or terraces; the Beach Bar, closed a few years ago, will reopen overlooking Half Moon Bay; a new open-air interdenominational wedding chapel will be built at Sunrise Beach; the golf course will be upgraded; and the "Golf, Tennis and Beach Club" moniker used for the past 25 years will be dropped from the resort's name. For rates and reservations, call (800) 626-0592.

AIR JAMAICA will move its operations at New York's Kennedy Airport to Terminal 4 July 15. The airline, which has served JFK for 34 years, has operated out of Terminal 2 since 1998. The 1.5-million-square-foot Terminal 4, which opened in May 2001, is JFK's only 24-hour terminal; it handles 48 other airlines and can process up to 3,200 passengers per hour. Terminal 4 features 16 gates, 50 immigration-inspection stations, 144 check-in desks (of which Air Jamaica will use 18), and a baggage system that can handle 8,500 bags per hour. Sarah Young, Air Jamaica's director of customer services, North America, said the terminal will feature an AirTrain light rail connection with Manhattan by year's end. In addition to the new terminal location, Air Jamaica renamed its first class service Top Class, changed business class to Platinum Class, and, starting this week, launched a new series of 30-second TV commercials in national and spot markets in the U.S.

A SECOND CRUISE pier is scheduled for Port Zante in St. Kitts, according to Dwyer Astaphan, minister of tourism. The current pier can handle up to two megaships at one time; the second pier, with construction scheduled to begin in mid-2004, also will be large enough to handle two of the big cruise ships, Astaphan said.

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