Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Feb. 12, 2004

CARIBBEAN TOURISM ORGANIZATION secretary general Jean Holder will meet in Havana Feb. 20 with Cuban tourism minister Ibrahim Ferradez-Garcia to discuss "possible areas of cooperation between the CTO and Cuba," Holder said. The talks will cover -- but not necessarily be limited to -- the CTO's Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, with its environmental focus, set for April 27 to 30 in the Cuban capital. It will be the first major conference the CTO has conducted in Cuba. Details on the attendance of U.S. participants are still being worked out in light of the U.S. government's restrictions on travel to Cuba. Cuba was an original CTO member, left the organization for awhile and returned in 1991. Holder said Cuba is an active participant in CTO programs in Canada and Europe.

WHAT COULD BETTER rekindle the flagging tourism base on St. Croix than a $100 million theme park? Stateside development consultants recently presented plans to the V.I. Port Authority for the 50-attraction Ay Ay Adventure Park, named after the Carib Indian name for St Croix. Attractions would include a shopping and entertainment village; a water park with a wave pool, beach and dolphin swims; aquariums; a Crucian heritage museum; and (if you can believe this) a hurricane simulator. Four possible sites were identified for the park -- three in the Frederiksted area and a fourth near Christiansted. Experts said the park would create up to 1,600 jobs and could be an impetus for bringing cruise lines back to the island by giving passengers something new to see and do. At the Port Authority board meeting, government officials reacted favorably to the presentation. Tourism commissioner Pamela Richards, who serves as the Port Authority chairperson, said the government should act "swiftly" to get the project moving, especially to secure the land where the park will be built and create tax incentives to entice developers.

LODGEPODGE
• Curtain Bluff resort in Antigua is extending its season through July 24 and offering a Family Discovery Special, valid from May 9 through closing. Guests who book a deluxe room, priced from $495 per night, or a junior suite, priced from $695, will receive 50% off the adjoining room. Rates cover all meals and activities. Children between two and five years of age who share a room with parents are charged $65 per night; for children five and over in the same room, the rate is $140 per child. To book, call (888) 289-9898.
• The 32-room Inn at Robert's Grove in southern Belize has a seven-night Whale Shark package during the peak period for whale shark sightings this spring: April 2 to 15; May 1 to 14; and May 31 to June 12. The plan, priced from $2,055 per person, double, in April and May and $1,829 in June, covers all meals; accommodations; three days of whale shark diving, two days of reef diving and use of all gear; transfers; and taxes and service charges. For details, visit www.robertsgrove.com.
• Fat Tuesday looms on Feb. 24 as the last Mardi Gras blowout before the six-week period preceding Easter on April 11. But there's also the second annual Chubby Monday Mardi event Feb. 23 at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas. Highlights include a Zydeco musical performance by Grammy artist Al Rapone and a Cajun barbecue with Crawfish boil and New Orleans Hurricane drinks. Coveted Mardi Gras beads will be awarded to spirited revelers. For details, visit www.bolongobay.com.
• The 27-room Friendship Bay Beach Hotel in Bequia in the Grenadines pays 20% commission on its daily rates which start at $165 per room, double, with breakfast. Swedish owner Lars Abrahamsson plans to add 12 villas and upgrade the existing guest rooms, beginning this summer. For details, visit www.friendshipbayresort.com.

OWNERS of the old Yacht Haven Hotel site in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas will begin demolishing the dilapidated structure March 13 and will launch construction on a $150 million hotel and marina project by mid-September. Plans for the waterfront site include a marina, a yacht club, a 70-room hotel, condominiums, a 25,000-square-foot convention center, four restaurants and an amphitheater. Hurricane Marilyn battered the Yacht Haven Hotel in 1995; until then, the hotel had served as the headquarters of the island's charter boat industry.

SORRY ABOUT THAT
• The correct contact number for information on the Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange, April 21 to 24 at Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, is (345) 949-8522. Incorrect information appeared in the Feb. 5 Caribbean E-Letter.

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