Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: October 25, 2001

CITING "a difficult economic environment and low booking levels," Club Med is closing 15 villages in 10 countries, including the 264-room Club Med Columbus Isle on San Salvador, Bahamas, and the 256-room Club Med St. Lucia near Castries. Club Med Columbus Isle closes Oct. 28 and has set a reopening date for winter 2002-03, although it could open sooner, a spokesman said. The St. Lucia resort, which has been closed since summer 2000 for renovations, was originally slated to reopen this month and now will reopen for the winter 2002-03 season. Affected clients have three options: Rebook at another Club Med village; cancel outright but apply the cost toward a future package, or cancel entirely with no penalty (agents' commissions are not protected on the third option). Club Med also has villages in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Turks & Caicos.

WHAT'S HAPPENING:
• The Caribbean Hotel Association's Marketplace 2002 will take place as scheduled at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico, from Jan. 13 to 15.
• The Caribbean Tourism Organization's postponed Tourism Summit now is set for Dec. 8 and 9 in Nassau.
• Dates still are not finalized for the Caribbean Tourism Conference, originally set for this month. However, the original venue of Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas remains the same.
• The CTO will host a Media Marketplace on Nov. 5 at the Radisson Crowne Plaza in New York City during the ASTA Congress. Tourism ministers and directors will be present.

A NEW CTO Web site at www.OneCaribbean.org, is being used by CTO members to post information on special packages and other tourism activity in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The site is linked to CTO members' individual Web sites.

FLIGHT PATTERNS:
• American Eagle will launch new services from San Juan to Herrara and Barahona in the Dominican Republic Dec. 15. The airline will offer two daily roundtrips to Herrera near the capital of Santo Domingo and a daily roundtrip flight to Barahona on the southwest coast.
• Air Jamaica postponed the start date of its Washington (Dulles)-Montego Bay service from Nov. 15 to mid-2002. Service from Montego Bay to Curacao begins Nov. 22.
• Air Jamaica extended its Freedom Fares offer through Oct. 31. Fares are valid for travel through March 14 and a two-day minimum stay is required. All U.S. gateways are eligible for Freedom Fares.

PUERTO RICO Tourism Co. launched a $15 million ad campaign, the first new campaign in more than three years. "You're Not Dreaming, You're in Puerto Rico" debuted Oct. 21 in print and on radio and TV. PRTC also launched its new Web site at www.gotopuertorico.com. The site replaces http://www.prtourism.com.

CLASSIC CUSTOM VACATIONS is paying 20% commission on the land portion of new bookings departing through Dec. 15. The commission rate applies to all Classic products, including Caribbean programs.

BIRAS CREEK RESORT on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands reopens Oct. 28 after a two-month renovation of its 33 suites, public areas, water sports facilities and food operations. The resort is the only Relais & Chateaux property in the Caribbean.

BEGINNING NOV. 1, guests who stay six nights or more at Beaches Royal Plantation Golf Resort & Spa in Ocho Rios, Jamaica receive free roundtrip air transfers between Montego Bay, Jamaica and Ocho Rios on Air Jamaica Express.

BREEZES CURACAO is scheduled to open Dec. 14. Formerly the Princess Beach Resort & Casino, the property is SuperClubs' first resort in the Dutch Caribbean. To spur business, all bookings made by Nov. 17 are discounted by up to 50% for travel between Jan. 1 and Dec. 20.

CUBA'S visitor figures reflect the downward trend seen elsewhere. H.E. Ibrahim Ferradaz, minister of tourism, reported a 5% decrease in September vs. a year ago and a 13% decline from Oct. 1 to 18 compared with the same period last October. Prior to Sept. 11, the Ministry of Tourism had projected visitor arrivals for 2001 at 2 million, up 12.5% from last year. Revised projections now forecast 1.9 million visitors, a 7% increase. Hotel occupancy, which hovered at 50% before Sept. 11, dipped to 30% since. No substantial change is expected through November.

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