Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: May 9, 2002

JOHN H. BELL, director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel Association, will step down after 28 years with CHA, effective Dec. 31. Bell joined CHA in 1974 as its first executive director. Over the years, Bell helped create CHA Marketplace, the annual tourism marketing conference; the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference, and CHIC, the annual Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference. In the marketing area, Bell developed the Caribbean Gold Book of hotels; the regional electronic reservations service known as CHARMS, and a private-sector-led regional marketing thrust known as Great Places in the Caribbean, scheduled for launch in the U.S. market in July. Ralph Taylor, CHA president, appointed a committee to select potential candidates for Bell's position.

CURACAO posted a 7.3% increase in U.S. visitors for the first three months of the year, compared with the same quarter in 2001, according to the Curacao Tourist Board. The number of U.S. visitors totaled 11,233, and the largest jump (20%) occurred in March. The U.S. continues to be the destination's No. 2 market, accounting for 22% of all arrivals. European travelers represent the largest source at 27.5%. Contributing to the growth in U.S. travelers is new service by Air Jamaica and the presence of SuperClubs Breezes, said James Hepple, executive director of the tourist board.

THE CAYMAN ISLANDS launched an aggressive incentive awards program aimed at agents to bolster off-season travel. McKeeva Bush, minister of tourism, told U.S. wholesalers at the Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange in George Town, Grand Cayman, that the hallmarks of the destination are "its safety, security and serenity." Bush underscored the need for collaboration and cooperation between public and private sectors "in the wake of Sept. 11." Air arrivals declined 5.6% from January through March, although cruise numbers rose 11% for the same time period.

MORE NEWS FROM CITE
• The Cayman Rewards program, geared toward individual agents and their agencies, is valid on bookings through October for travel through December and rewards top-volume agents and agencies with $500 each per month. Agents report their bookings to a Web site at www.caymanrewards.com, which tracks their business.
• H2GO!, a May-through-October incentive program with a four-night minimum-stay requirement, contains a My Element discount card with savings up to $1,100 per couple on attractions, restaurants, water sports and shopping. Travel is valid through October. Details are available at www.caymanislands.ky.
• The reorganized Cayman Islands Tourism Assn. now includes more than 200 businesses and hotels in the Cayman Islands. Previously, separate organizations represented these tourism sectors.
• New attractions include the BubbleSub, operated by SEAmobile Submarine Tours at (345) 916-DIVE. The sub is a two-person, glass-enclosed cabin piloted by a skilled diver to depths of 65 feet for unimpeded close-up views of reef, fish, coral and turtles. Commission of 10% is paid on rates of $139 per person, double.
• The Westin's Casuarina's Hibiscus Spa opened last November; the 365-room Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Seven Mile Beach has set an opening date of October 2003; and a calendar of events for the yearlong 500th anniversary of the Cayman Islands next year can be viewed at www.cayman500.ky.

AIR BYTES
• US Airways will begin Saturday nonstop service from Philadelphia to St. Kitts Dec. 7 and has applied for DOT approval to launch up to four weekly flights between Charlotte, N.C., and Belize in November, using 120-passenger Airbus equipment.
• Pan Am will launch 727 service three times a week to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, from the Orlando-Sanford Airport in Florida May 15.

REGISTRATION for the sixth annual International Travel Partners Conference at Radisson Cable Beach in Nassau, set for May 21 to 24, is available on line. The 600 buyers and suppliers who received invitations by e-mail received a confidential user name and initial password to register on line at www.bahamasitpc.com. Those interested in attending who were not on the e-mail list can contact Henry Ross, conference manager, at (305) 705-1206 or via e-mail at [email protected].

LODGEPODGE
• Island Outpost's newest addition is Kamalame Cay, an 11-room inclusive resort on a private island just off Andros in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Units include marina rooms, cottages and villa suites with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, CD players, minibars and patios. The resort fronts a three-mile private beach sheltered by a barrier reef. For information, visit www.islandoutpost.com.
• Don and Kathie Johnson, husband and wife management duo at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club in Nevis, were named 2002 Hotelier of the Year at the annual St. Kitts & Nevis Hotel and Tourism Assn. awards reception.
• Guests at the couples-only, 100-room Rendezvous, St. Lucia can become PADI-certified divers in two days through participation in a program called PADI Fastrack. Guests receive a manual and video or CD-ROM prior to arrival, which they study at home and then complete the written test and open-water qualifying dives at the resort. Prices start at $279 for the course; inclusive resort rates start at $170 person, per day through Dec. 21. Visit www.rendezvous.com.lc for details.
• The Coral Collection of Fine Hotels & Resorts has expanded its portfolio to eight properties with the addition of its first Caribbean hotel -- the year-old, 60-suite Royal West Indies Resort, on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. Nightly rates start at $147 per couple, double and pay 10% commission.
• Hyatt Resorts' Kids Stay, Play and Eat Free package (for kids under age 12) is offered at its properties in Aruba, Grand Cayman and Puerto Rico (as well as the continental U.S. and Hawaii) from June 1 through Aug. 31. The program also offers 50% off a second room and free golf for kids under age 17 when teeing off with a paying adult. Inclusions and minimum lengths of stay vary by resort.
• Sun-care issues are addressed by the Westin St. John Resort & Villas, U.S. Virgin Islands in its Savvy Sun program. The plan features copies of the Savvy Sun Guide, which explains sunscreen vs. sunblock, waterproof vs. water resistant and the benefits of and uses for each. Guests also may borrow Sun Timers to monitor and time their sun sessions.

THE CABINET POST of tourism minister for the Bahamas is temporarily vacant while Perry Christie, the newly elected prime minister of the Progressive Liberal Party, forms his government. Christie defeated Tommy Turnquest, the former tourism minister of the Free National Movement party. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director general of tourism, and Vernice Walkine, deputy director of tourism, continue in their roles, which are nonelected.

THE LATEST Bahamas Getaway promotion offers savings up to $150 for clients who use American Express to book any of the air-inclusive programs of 10 participating tour operators. Booking deadline is May 31; travel must be completed by Dec. 22. For details, call (800) 4-BAHAMAS.

PENCIL IT IN
• Americas' Sail 2002, Montego Bay and Port Antonio, Jamaica, June 14 to 16.
• CTO's 29th annual Governments of the Caribbean State Ball, with Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, Waldorf-Astoria, New York, May 31.
• Provo Summer Festival and Pageant, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, July 22 to 28.
• Taste of the Caribbean, sponsored by the Caribbean Culinary Foundation, Renaissance Jamaica Grande, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Oct. 16 to 19.

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