Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: March 28, 2002

SANDALS RESORTS acquired the 294-room Hyatt Regency St. Lucia, which has been closed and in receivership since January. The property, which opened at Rodney Bay on St. Lucia's northwest coast two years ago, will become a couples-only resort and will be Sandals' third property on the island. The inclusive resort will open in late June or early July after major improvements are completed and it joins Sandals Halcyon and Sandals St. Lucia Golf Resort & Spa.

MEANWHILE, Sandals also assumed ownership of the 90-room Dragon Bay Beach Resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The resort, which served as the location for such films as "Lord of the Flies" and "Cocktail," will be closed for extensive refurbishing and is expected to reopen this fall as an upscale Beaches property, much like Beaches Royal Plantation Resort & Spa in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

LODGEPODGE
• Guests who arrive at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands by ferry from St. Thomas now are greeted dockside by a Marina Ambassador who dispenses a rum punch and a room key. There is no front desk check-in or baggage to maneuver, and guests are whisked to their rooms or villas by golf carts. A new 149-passenger ferry called the Westin Breeze joins the resort fleet April 15. For information, visit the Web site at www.westinresortstjohn.com.
• Grenada's Spice Island Beach Resort and Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel raised commissions from 10% to 15% on bookings for travel from April 16 to Dec. 14.
• Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa installed a heart defibrillator at the resort. Most of the staff is CPR-certified and trained to use the machine, which stabilizes irregular heartbeats through electrical currents.
• Radisson Cable Beach Golf Course in Nassau opened for play on nine holes March 22. The redesign of the back nine is expected to be finished by November when renovations to the clubhouse and driving range are completed. The Radisson includes unlimited golf in its inclusive rates.

CUBA'S TOURISM and tourism-related revenue dipped 8% last year, to $1.8 billion compared with $1.9 billion in 2000, according to the country's National Statistics Office. Although year-to-date visitor arrivals are down compared with the same period last year, Cuba registered a slight increase -- .03% -- comparing 2001 with 2000.

TO CELEBRATE its 50th anniversary, the Caribbean Tourism Organization will honor 50 individuals for their contributions to Caribbean tourism. The ceremony will take place at the 29th annual Governments of the Caribbean State Ball May 31 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The 50 honorees include 33 selected by CTO member countries from public, private and government sectors. An additional 17 were selected for their contributions to regional tourism.

AIR BYTES
• Bel Air International Airlines, a new airline serving Belize, will pay 12% commission on its inaugural flight April 27 and 10% thereafter. Bel Air will offer Saturday roundtrip service between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Belize City, Belize. Roundtrip fares start at $399. Visit www.belairinternational.com for information.
• American Airlines will launch weekly nonstop service between Boston and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, June 15. The new route will supplement the line's three daily flights from Miami and four weekly flights from New York's Kennedy airport. American also will introduce twice-weekly nonstop service to Grand Cayman from Kennedy, effective June 15.
• Air Jamaica increased its service from Kennedy to Kingston, Jamaica, with a daily flight through April 10 (up from five per week). The service will revert back to five-per-week starting April 11 and will return to daily service June 20. Also on June 20, Air Jamaica will reintroduce nonstop service to Antigua from Kennedy with three flights per week; increase its nonstop service from Kennedy to Grenada to four flights per week (up from two); and offer daily service on the Kennedy-Barbados run (up from five per week).

WYNDHAM ARUBA BEACH Resort & Casino launched its first inclusive plan, commissionable at 10%. Features include all meals, unlimited beverages, admission to theme nights, use of the health club and tennis courts, taxes, service charges and tips. Nightly inclusive rates start at $365 per room, double, through Sept. 30 and again Nov. 16 to Dec. 20. From Oct. 1 through Nov. 15, rates start at $385. A five-night stay is required. For information, call (800) WYNDHAM.

PENCIL IT IN
• The annual Cayman Islands Carnival Batabano in George Town, Grand Cayman, April 11 to 13. For fares and packages, visit www.caymancarnival.com.
• Islands of the Bahamas Weather Conference at Atlantis, Paradise Island April 17 to 21.
• 11th annual Virgin Islands Charteryacht League Spring Boat Show at St. Thomas' Crown Bay Marina May 3 to 5. For information, call (800) 524-2061.
• 13th annual St. Croix Half-Ironman International Triathlon May 5.
• 10th annual Barbados Gospelfest May 18 to 26. Air Jamaica Vacations offers land and air packages from $759 from Kennedy for three nights at Time Out at the Gap. For information, call (800) 622-3009.

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