Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter May 15, 2003

HYATT HOTELS CORP. said May 13 that the ownership -- reportedly the Dorado Beach Corp.-- of the 506-room Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach Resort in Dorado, Puerto Rico, decided to close and "divest" the property, effective July 15. In a statement, Hyatt said "the new ownership of the property will be exploring the feasibility of converting the Cerromar Beach hotel to a Hyatt Vacation Ownership facility." Hyatt did not identify the new owners, but said it would take up to $60 million in financing to create the vacation ownership facility. The company cited the "general business climate and the proliferation of newer and more modern competitors" for the decision. Speculation in the Puerto Rico press had it that labor troubles were a factor in the closure decision. Hyatt said it "remains committed" to Puerto Rico, and has "resolved to focus its efforts" on the Hyatt Dorado Beach, a sister resort to the Hyatt Regency Cerromar that's less than a mile away. The Hyatt Hacienda del Mar, which is adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Cerromar, also will remain open, as will the Cerromar's "river pool" and the resort's golf club.

ARUBA extended its One Cool Summer travel agent program through Dec. 15. The program features a maximum stay of six nights (three in a high-rise property, three in a low-rise) at a fixed cost of $150; four nights at $100; or seven nights, (for agents arriving on a charter flight only and staying three nights in a high rise, four in a low rise) for $175. Rates do not include the Aruba departure tax of $36.75. Some properties offer daily continental breakfast while others include roundtrip transfers in the rates. Nine high-rise and eight low-rise hotels are participating. Agents must fill out an application form and credit card guarantee, which can be obtained by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or [email protected] Three-night fam trips are available for $60 per agent during the same time period. Included are room, most meals, site inspections, transfers and an island tour. Air transportation is additional for both programs. For info, contact the Aruba Tourism Authority at (800) TO ARUBA.

US AIRWAYS' Vacations' new Free, Free, Free promotion, launched May 12, pays 16% commission on online bookings made by May 31 at www.vaxvacationaccess.com, 15% through the GDSs under vendor code USV and 10% through the call center at (800) 455-0123. Special goodies for travelers booked by June 20 for five or more nights for travel through Nov. 12 include one free night at participating hotels, one free tour and a three-piece set of Samsonite luggage valued at $339. The luggage is available when payment is made by MasterCard.

THE JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD will close several of its tourist offices worldwide, replacing them with home-based marketing staff as part of a new restructuring plan, according to director of tourism Paul Pennicook. The JTB has four U.S. offices: in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Some markets could lose a physical JTB presence altogether, said Pennicook. No time frame has been set for the closures.

PUERTO RICO PROPERTIES reported April occupancies topping 81% in San Juan and 74% elsewhere, according to figures released by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. and the Caribbean Hotel Association. Jose Suarez, PRTC executive director, said the figures point to a "very productive year" and result from a "proactive approach in forging strategic initiatives with our travel partners." PRTC's peak-season average hotel occupancies of 78.2% were 3.7% higher over the same period a year ago. "Puerto Rico tourism in the long term is very promising," Suarez said.

LODGEPODGE
• The all-inclusive Viva Fortuna Beach on Grand Bahama Island celebrates the end of the school year with a School's Out for Summer special with daily rates starting at $90 per person, double, through June 30. From July 1 through Aug. 31, the daily rate is $130 per person, double. Kids under 12 stay, play and eat free when sharing a room with adults. Packages cover accommodations, all meals and drinks, daily activities, water sports, enrollment in the Viva Kids' Club for kids ages 4 to 12, all taxes, tips and surcharges. To book, call (800) 898-9968.
• SuperClubs' Cuba expansion includes the 307-suite Breezes Cayo Coco, opening in winter 2004, while the 434-suite Grand Lido Varadero is slated to open in July 2004 as SuperClubs' first Grand Lido resort outside of Jamaica.

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