Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: April 1, 2004

THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS' new marketing thrust, unveiled at its 11th annual Destination Symposium for more than 100 industry partners last weekend in St. Thomas, positions the three islands as culturally diverse but comfortably familiar. The new strategy incorporates an ad campaign with TV spots, scheduled to begin airing this month, that are set to a quelbe (a Caribbean-style music and dance that originated in the U.S.V.I.) version of Woody Guthrie's song "This Land is Your Land." Other campaign components include travel agent promotions, a new coop marketing program for small and large hoteliers in the U.S.V.I. and the rollout of a hotel Web site [www.virginislandshotels.com] this spring for consumers. Supporting the cohesive yet diverse theme of the destination and its three islands is the new U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association, made up of the recently combined St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association and the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association. "Our new association will enable us to more efficiently market and promote the territory as a whole," said Beverly Nicholsen, association president. Nicholsen served as executive director of the former St. Thomas-St. John group.

WITH BASEBALL SEASON officially under way comes word that the Montreal Expos will return for the second year in a row to Puerto Rico to play 22 "home" games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Opponents during this year's series include the New York Mets, April 9 to 11; the Florida Marlins, April 13 to 15; the Milwaukee Brewers, May 18 to 20; the San Francisco Giants, May 21 to 23; the Toronto Blue Jays, July 2 to 4; the Atlanta Braves, July 5 to 7; and the Pittsburgh Pirates, July 8 to 11. Tickets range from $10 to $85 per game and are available online at www.ticketpop.com. The price does not include the cost of Puerto Rican hotdogs.

BY AIR AND SEA, visitors to Belize this winter increased tourism stats to the island. Air arrivals increased 9% and 17% in January and February, respectively. Meanwhile, cruise visitors jumped 67% in January and 82% in February, compared with the same periods a year ago, according to the Belize Tourism Board.

TAKEOFFS
• Cayman Airways will offer twice-weekly nonstop service from Orlando to Grand Cayman June 25 to Aug. 9. The service will operate Mondays and Fridays.
• Delta Airlines will launch twice-daily services between New York (Kennedy) and San Juan April 4 and between Kennedy and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, June 1.

ROLODEX
• The new minister of tourism for Antigua and Barbuda is attorney Harold Lovell, whose United Progressive Party swept the Antigua Labour Party -- and prime minister Lester Bird -- out of power March 23. Lovell, whose responsibilities also include foreign affairs and international transport and trade, replaced Molwyn Joseph in the tourism post.
• Atlantis, Paradise Island named Alexander Kim vice president and general manager of conference services and banquet operations.
• Brian Harry, president of Tidco, the tourism and promotional development company for Trinidad and Tobago, resigned March 29. Harry was appointed to the post in 2002 by Tidco's chairman Aleem Mohammed and its board of directors. No replacement has been named.

PENCIL IT IN
• 16th annual St. Croix Triathlon, May 2, St. Croix. For info, visit www.stcroixtriathlon.com.
• 2nd annual Turks and Caicos Conference (TaCC), June 21 to 23, Providenciales. For details, contact (800) 241-0824.

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