Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: November 7, 2002

SANDALS and Beaches Resorts posted an 11% increase in business from the U.S. during the first nine months of 2002 vs. the same period a year ago, according to Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman. The majority of the business came through agents, Stewart said. To encourage business, "we upgraded our products, spent close to $30 million on refurbishments and increased the value of the tour packages," he said.

MEANWHILE, the Jamaica-based resort chain recently hosted its ninth annual Ultra Awards, held in St. Lucia at Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort to honor its top industry partners. The awards are based on sales volume for arrivals from Aug. 1, 2001, to July 31, 2002. The No. 1 producer was Gogo Worldwide Vacations; top-producing tour operator was Mark Travel Corp.; top suite sellers were Air Jamaica Vacations, Gogo, Mark Travel and MLT Vacations; and top group producer was Maritz Travel Co.

US AIRWAYS VACATIONS is offering travel rebates of up to $150 on four-night air-inclusive packages to select resorts on Nassau/Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island. Bookings must be made by Dec. 22 for travel through Dec. 9 and Jan. 6 through Feb. 10. The operator also is offering rebates of up to $100 on packages to Puerto Rico and Sandals and Beaches Resorts through March 31. Bookings must be made by Nov. 30 through VAX Vacation Access at www.vacationaccess.com or the major GDSs.

THE U.S. AND JAMAICAN governments initialed an open-skies agreement, which, when ratified, will enable airlines of both countries to gain greater access to the U.S.-Jamaica market.

LODGEPODGE
• Couples Resorts of Jamaica will launch a $3 million ad campaign in January, showcasing the cuisine, design, service, amenities and atmosphere of its three inclusive resorts. The print and cable TV campaign will use the tagline: "The All-Inclusive Refined, Redefined."
• Rendezvous, St. Lucia will complete a $5 million enhancement program by early December that includes refurbishment of its 100 guest rooms and public areas. Nightly rates at the inclusive resort, valid to Dec. 20, 2003, range from $183 to $300 per person, double. For details, visit www.rendezvous.com.lc.
• Sandals White House, a 360-room property near Montego Bay, Jamaica, will open between December 2003 and February 2004 and will feature 18,000 square feet of meetings space and seven restaurants.
• Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Montego Bay acquired Welcome Wharf, a 19th-century plantation house set on 10 acres next to the resort. The building will be converted to a spa and will open by Thanksgiving.

LIAT won loan guarantees totaling more $4 million from seven Caribbean governments when it announced that cash-flow problems could cause it to suspend flights by mid-November. Pledging aid were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. LIAT's three-year business plan will be reviewed this month and will call for newer, more efficient aircraft and further investment in the carrier's infrastructure, according to Gary Cullen, CEO.

AIR BYTES
• On Nov. 2, US Airways launched daily nonstop service between Washington (National) and Nassau, using A319 aircraft. The carrier also introduced service four times a week between its hub in Charlotte, N.C., and Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos. Effective Nov. 9, it will introduce year-round service four times a week between Charlotte and Belize.
• BWIA set promotion fares to the Caribbean for travel through June 5. Tickets must be booked by Nov. 13. Roundtrip rates from Miami range from $334 to Trinidad to $412 to St. Lucia; from New York, fares range from $392 to Barbados, Dominica and Grenada to $599 to Trinidad.
• Air Jamaica will begin nonstop service from Montego Bay to Belize Nov. 21 four times a week.
• Cape Air will offer hourly service between San Juan and St. Thomas; St. Croix; and Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and five flights a day between San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico, by early January. The regional carrier will continue its policy of no cancellation or penalty fees. To view the schedule, visit www.capeair.com.
• Delta started new daily nonstop service Nov. 1 between Atlanta and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

PILAR BUSH, U.S. director of sales and marketing for the Cayman Islands, assumed the new post of deputy director of tourism, U.S. sales and marketing. Bush will remain based in New York. The U.S. market represents 80% of the tourism travel to the Cayman Islands.

PENCIL IT IN
• Professional Windsurfers Assn. Freestyle Championship 2002, Dec. 17, Sorobon Beach, Bonaire.
• Barbados 2003 Festival, Jan. 13 to 19, Barbados. For details, visit www.barbadosjazzfestival.com.
• Int'l Scuba Diving Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Jan. 17, George Town, Grand Cayman.
• Caribbean Hotel Assn. Marketplace, Jan. 19 to 21, San Juan.
• Mustique Blues Festival, Jan. 22 to Feb. 5, Mustique, Bequia and St. Vincent.

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