Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Jan. 29, 2004

SANDALS launched its Best Price Guarantee, an initiative Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman and CEO of Sandals and Beaches Resorts, said is designed "to give agents peace of mind that their price can no longer be undersold." Stewart, who announced the guarantee at Sandals Montego Bay Jan. 23, said that retailers threatened with losing a sale to a lower price now can call Sandals' toll-free number [(800) SANDALS] and be guaranteed the lower price will be matched. Agents will be required to produce documentation for competing price quotes. The guarantee, which took effect Jan. 23, is valid year round, applies to all agents selling Sandals and Beaches products and is not limited to Sandals Certified Specialists or Preferred Sandals Specialists, a program that launched last month. The explosion of price-cutting by discounters, Web sites and a variety of distribution systems has been watched closely by Sandals, Stewart said, and led to the decision to implement the guarantee.

THE CARIBBEAN TOURISM ORGANIZATION for the first time will conduct a major conference -- the sixth annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development -- in Cuba. Cuba is a CTO member and the country has hosted CTO board meetings and training programs, but the April 27 to 30 conference in the Habana Libre Hotel in Havana ratchets up the relationship. The confab will focus on "the impact of land and sea-based activities on the sustainability of coastal areas and the resources necessary for sustainable tourism development," according to Jean Holder, CTO's secretary general.

LODGEPODGE
• Beaches Negril Resort & Spa in Jamaica, formerly Beaches Negril, opens its 6,000-square-foot Ultra Spa Feb. 1. The spa will be the second to open in Jamaica within months: Sandals Montego Bay opened its specialty spa in October. Sandals and Beaches now offer 10 Signature spas throughout the Caribbean. The Negril resort also will add a $1.5 million pirate-themed water park with slides, a splash deck, a lazy river and a large Jacuzzi. The park is slated to open in May.
• The four-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot Roaring Pavilion Villa & Spa in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, now offers an EP rate in addition to its all-inclusive pricing plan. The daily EP rate for eight guests, including the use of staff and house vehicle, through April 15 is $2,500; the rate drops to $2,100 per day from April 16 to Dec. 14. The all-inclusive rate is $5,000 per night through April 15 and $4,500 from April 16 to Dec. 14. Prices are commissionable at 10% and can be booked through LaCure, a meetings and incentives villa rental and yacht charter company, at (800) 387-2726.
• St. Kitts Marriott reopened the front nine holes of its golf club, under renovation since spring 2002. A new clubhouse features a restaurant, bar and lounge, locker rooms and a pro shop. The back nine holes will reopen later this year. The resort also opened its Emerald Mist Spa that includes a health club, fitness classes, eight treatment rooms, plunge pools, a sauna, Jacuzzis and Roman baths.
• The 111-room Hawksbill Beach Resort Antigua converted to an all-inclusive property, upgraded its facilities, and introduced new yoga and massage programs. The new general manager is Richard Michelin. Hawksbill has four private beaches, including -- or should we say, excluding -- one of the only clothing-optional beaches in Antigua. Nightly rates through mid-April start at $300 per room, double.
• The Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, opened Ajili-Mojili, its eighth on-property restaurant. Ajili-Mojili serves Puerto Rican cuisine and takes its name from a sauce originally used to flavor meats and fish.
• Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort in Nassau offers Sweet Supersaver inclusive rates for travel from Feb. 12 through April 17, starting at $200 per person, per night, double, which represents a 20% discount. Room-only rates are $200, double, during the same time period. Free golf greens fees are part of its inclusive plan.

PENCIL IT IN
• Lelolai cultural program, Feb. 24, March 30, April 27 and May 25, San Cristobal Fort in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. For details, call (787) 729-6777.
• Astronomy Nights, March 13 to 20, Ladera Resort, St. Lucia. This is a package plan that includes guided viewings of the constellations by Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and Fels Planetarium director at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. For details, call (800) 917-0766.
• U.S. Virgin Islands Destination Symposium, March 26 to 29, Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, St. Thomas.
• Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE), April 28 to30, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

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