Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: October 31, 2002

COLLABORATION, cooperation, commitment and coordinated air connections are the keys to the reinvention of Caribbean tourism, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry G. Christie told delegates at the CTC-25 conference in Freeport, Bahamas, this week. In his keynote speech, Christie railed against what he described as the "same old discussions that took place 20 years ago that never accomplished anything but continuing competitiveness" in the region.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM CTC-25:
• CTC-25 drew more than 1,000 registrants, including 175 travel agents from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, down from the 400-plus agents who attended in 2000, the last year the conference was held (it was canceled in 2001 after Sept. 11). Next year's conference venue could be the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to Jean Holder, Caribbean Tourism Organization secretary general.
• The Bahamas was elected to a second two-year term as chair of the CTO. Bahamas minister of tourism Obie Wilchombe, who assumed the chairmanship in May following the Progressive Liberal Party's election victory, will continue to serve as chairman of the regional body.
• Airline strategies and partnerships dominated a session at CTC-25 entitled "View from the Cockpit; View from the Seats," moderated by Conrad Aleong, chairman of Trinidad-based BWIA. Although Aleong did not mention the dire financial straits facing his carrier, he called for "regional carrier integration." In a meeting Aleong has called for Nov. 11, he and other regional carriers will meet to implement specific cost-cutting measures, such as shared-lease aircraft.
• Jose M. Suarez, deputy executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., said 21 new hotel projects currently are under way in Puerto Rico, representing an investment of $560 million and will add 2,261 rooms (15% of the total inventory) by the end of 2003. Suarez said an additional 56 hotel projects -- representing 8,600 rooms -- are in the planning stages, for a total investment of $2.2 billion in completed and planned hotel projects.
• U.S. visitor arrivals for a handful of islands were up this year, including Barbados, by 22% through September; Nevis, by 18% through July; Curacao, by 12% through September; and Grenada, by 8.3% through August.

US AIRWAYS finalized a deal with Winair for interisland code sharing. The deal is to go into effect in December, pending government approval. Under the deal, US Airways would place its code on Winair flights from St. Maarten to Anguilla, Antigua, Saba, St. Barts, St. Eustatius and St. Kitts and Nevis. The Winair deal is part of the US Airways "GoCaribbean" coop marketing initiative, announced in June, with Winair, Nevis Express and Caribbean Star. In July, US Airways began code-sharing with Nevis Express, linking San Juan with St. Kitts and Nevis. US Airways is continuing to work on a deal with Caribbean Star.

MEANWHILE, US Airways Vacations extended the Buy One Get One Free special at Puerto Rico's Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and Golden Door Spa for bookings made by Nov. 30 in the Ocean room category. Travel must be completed by Dec. 19. Packages include roundtrip air, accommodations, transfers, hotel taxes, service charges and international travel taxes. Four-night plans start at $759 from New York (LaGuardia) and $818 from Boston; Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia; and Washington. When travelers book one night's accommodation, a round of golf, a spa treatment and a water sport, they receive another free night, free golf, a complimentary spa treatment and a free water sport activity. On Thanksgiving Day, one buffet dinner is free when another is booked. For details, call (800) 455-0123.

NEW FACES in the Caribbean tourism industry include: Penelope Beckles, minister of tourism, Trinidad and Tobago; Sharon Pascal, director of tourism, Dominica; and Myrna Jansen-Feliciano, managing director of the Aruba Tourism Authority, who replaced Jan van Nes, now general manager of the Playa Linda Beach Resort in Aruba.

HILTON CARIBBEAN, a division of Hilton Int'l, entered the inclusive market by signing an agreement with Dominican Republic-based Coral Hotels & Resorts to handle sales and marketing for Coral's four resorts in the Dominican Republic. As part of the agreement, the companies launched a brand called Coral by Hilton that will consist of the four Dominican Republic resorts, which Coral will continue to manage.

FIVE-NIGHT STAYS (or longer) at SuperClubs' three Grand Lido resorts on Jamaica, completed by Dec. 31, 2003, are worth a $500 bonus commission. The properties are the Grand Lido Braco, Grand Lido Negril and Grand Lido Sans Souci. Five-night rates start at $2,500 per person, double. For information, call (800) GO-SUPER or check the Web site, www.superclubs.com.

THE CARIBBEAN Tourism Organization's regional television ad campaign, entitled "Life Needs the Caribbean," is on hold and will resume after the U.S. congressional elections Nov. 5. The first phase of the $16 million campaign began airing on CNN, Fox and MSNBC Aug. 21; an additional 14 cable channels began airing the spots Sept. 16 for an eight-week run. However, ads were halted Oct. 16 when feedback indicated that the current U.S. economic and political climate is negative to travel and is counter to what the ads are trying to portray.

THE HOLIDAY INN SunSpree Resort Hotel, Paradise Island, Bahamas, will become a 100% inclusive operation, effective Jan. 1. Until then, both EP and inclusive rates are available at the 246-unit property, according to Clinton Davis, reservations manager.

AMERICAN EXPRESS Vacations and Travel Impressions launched a high-end Jamaica product to showcase the more luxurious side of the island. The firms will sell and market 12 properties as part of the Exquisite Jamaica program. All vacations booked through the new program include first-class air on Air Jamaica. Participating properties are The Caves, Couples Negril, Couples Swept Away Negril, Goldeneye, Grand Lido Braco, Grand Lido Negril, Grand Lido Sans Souci, Half Moon, Royal Plantation Golf Resort, Sandals Negril, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Strawberry Hill.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS will begin distributing its first-ever Caribbean brochure Nov. 15 for travel starting in January. The new programs are aimed at the West Coast market, coinciding with Air Jamaica's new twice-daily schedule of flights from Los Angeles to Jamaica, beginning in April for the summer season. The packages pay 12% commission with a $40 bonus for every two bookings.

LODGEPODGE
• Royal Plantation Golf Resort and Spa by Beaches is the new name of the flagship, 80-suite Beaches resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. In a move to reflect its uniqueness as an especially exclusive inclusive, the Beaches moniker, which once began the property name, was moved to the end of the name. Mario Machado, general manager, said the move "will help clear up any confusion in the marketplace. Most Beaches' resorts welcome kids and the market generally knows this." The Royal Plantation resort is open only to adults, 18 and over. Winter rates start at $410 per person, per night.
• The new moniker for the Ritz-Carlton, Rose Hall, Jamaica is the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica. Martin Nicholson, general manager, said the new name "highlights the resort's key facilities."
• Malliouhana resort in Anguilla reopens Nov. 1, following its annual closing, with a 15,000-square-foot oceanfront spa which will offer a selection of therapeutic and beauty massages and treatments.
• Elegant Hotels Group retained Lexington Services to handle global reservations (GDS and online) on behalf of its six Barbados hotels: Colony Club, Coconut Creek, Crystal Cove, The House, Tamarind Cove and Turtle Beach Resort.

CUBA TRAVEL Services opened an office in Las Vegas to provide travel services for Cuban-Americans and others who qualify to visit Cuba under U.S. Treasury regulations. Cuba Travel Services offers weekly charter flights from Los Angeles and Miami to Havana.

PENCIL IT IN
• Bahamas World Music & Jazz Festival, Nov. 6 to 10, Nassau.
• World Jam Golf Pro-Am, Dec. 1 to 8, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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