THE BAHAMAS unveiled a $15 million brand identity
overhaul designed to make the 700-island chain stand out from the
rest of the sun-and-fun Caribbean crowd, according to tourism
officials. The marketing effort features a new logo, a new ad
campaign and a revamped Web site [www.bahamas.com] with online booking
functionality, as well as an emphasis on island hopping between
more popular Nassau and Grand Bahama Island and the less-visited
Out, or Family, Islands. Minister of tourism Obediah Wilchcombe
said the Bahamas needed a stronger presence in the online
marketplace, where he estimates travel sales totaling approximately
$43 million by the end of the year. "The new Bahamas.com is a
tremendous opportunity for all our island partners to compete for
lucrative online travel business," he said, noting that "hundreds
of independent hotels and vendors" will benefit most. Bahamian
culture, history, society, cuisine, and varied activities loom
large in the campaign as factors that distinguish the destination
from others in the Caribbean, Wilchcombe said.
CLUB MED launched a Web site [www.clubmedgroups.com] for group- and incentive-travel
planners. John Vanderslice, president and CEO of Club Med Americas,
said the site, which provides access to listings and information on
Club Med destinations worldwide, "is another example of our
strategy to grow the group and incentive business throughout North
America." The site offers virtual tours, an online brochure, quote
requests and promotions. Club Med has more than 200 conference
rooms in 36 countries and offers a Rent-A-Village program where
large groups can book an entire Club Med facility.
THE LONG-AWAITED CASINO at the Westin and
Sheraton at Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island opened Dec. 15,
boasting 35,000 square feet of gaming space outfitted with 400 slot
machines, 21 game tables and a 110-person bistro and bar. The
casino, operated by regional gaming firm Isle of Capri Casinos,
also features high-limit slots and table game rooms with VIP-lounge
food and beverage services. The Isle of Capri Casino is open from
10:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. daily, with slot machines operating 24
hours on weekends. For more information on the casino, call (888)
687-4753. For more on the 372-acre Westin and Sheraton at Our
Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort, visit www.westin.com/ourlucaya or www.sheraton.com/ourlucaya.
VIRTUOSO TAPPED ISLAND DESTINATIONS as its
preferred luxury-tour operator for its network of more than 6,000
travel specialists in the Americas. Island Destinations' portfolio
includes 50 hotels and resorts and 40 luxury villas in Bermuda, the
Caribbean, Costa Rica, Fiji, French Polynesia and Mexico. At the
same time, Virtuoso severed its preferred-supplier relationship
with Classic Custom Vacations, saying Classic's parent company,
InterActiveCorp is bent on usurping Virtuoso's relationships with
agents' clients and suppliers. Ron Letterman, chairman of Classic,
labeled Virtuoso's statement "inaccurate and misrepresents our
motivations with regard to the travel agent community."
MORE TOUR TIDBITS
• Apple Vacations now offers 39 flights a week from U.S. gateways
to Punta Cana, Puerto Plata and La Romana in the Dominican Republic
in addition to its programs on scheduled carriers. The operator
expects to carry more than 145,000 passengers to the DR this
winter. For details, visit www.applevacations.com.
• Pleasant Holidays and the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris
Casino offer a fifth night free on five-night packages in 2004 that
includes daily breakfasts and transfers as well as discounted meals
for children under 12. The five-night, land-only rate starts at
$816 per person, double, representing savings of $390 per couple.
To book, call (800) 448-3333.
• Air Jamaica Vacations' new 1% commission bonus brings the total
commission to 14% for agents booking via VAX
VacationAccess and the GDSs, when the inventory becomes
available in the res systems. The bonus applies to all bookings
made through March 31. AJV's latest tour system electronic booking
upgrade permits 24/7 access and includes the lowest fare finder
technology available, according to Bryan Shilling, president.
• St. James's Club, St. Lucia offers up to 30% off and a free night
for seven-night inclusive stays through April 1. The discounted
rate starts at $975 per person, double. Stays of five or six nights
also earn a free night and a 25% discount. To book, call (800)
• The Body Holiday at LeSport in St. Lucia will host its first yoga
week Jan. 11 to 18 and will feature instruction, classes, lectures
and other group sessions. The plan is priced from $2,240 per
person, double; visit www.thebodyholiday.com to book.
• The 32-room Mount Nevis Hotel and Beach Club on Nevis, which
recently completed an upgrade, will match the number of paid nights
with same number of free nights, starting with a minimum of three
paid nights for stays through Jan. 31 in a superior suite. Rates
start at $300 a night, plus tax. The resort also is offering two
free roundtrip tickets on Winair from St. Martin. For details,
• Barbados' 72-room Fairmont Royal Pavilion celebrates the
completion of its five-month refurbishment project with a free
night when four are booked for stays from Jan. 2 through Feb. 29 at
a rate of $689 per night, double. More information is available at
• San Juan's 84-room Water Club has a new two-night romance package
that includes a deluxe oceanfront room, champagne and strawberries
on arrival, continental breakfasts for two, a keepsake souvenir and
a free night for those who return the following year on their
anniversary. The rate is $699 per couple, including food and
beverage gratuities. For reservations, call (888) 265-6699.
• Frank Christopher Lewis was appointed leisure manager at the
Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort in Nassau. Lewis is
responsible for the daily operations of the resort's newly
renovated 18-hole golf course.
• Raffles Resort at Canouan Island, the Grenadines, tapped Louis
Sailer general manager. The 156-room property -- Raffles' first in
the Caribbean -- is scheduled to open in the summer. Sailer is a
24-year hospitality veteran, and joined Raffles International in
SORRY ABOUT THAT!
The correct Web site address for the St. Lucia Jazz Festival,
May 7-16 in St. Lucia, is www.stluciajazz.org. We had it wrong in the
Dec. 4 Caribbean E-Letter.