Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: June 17, 2004

JEAN-CLAUDE BAUMGARTEN, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, spoke at the recent Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and noted that "several challenges ... limit the industry's full potential for growth" in the region. Those difficulties persist despite the fact that the WTTC estimated that Caribbean travel and tourism will grow to 16.5% of gross domestic product by 2014, up from 14.8% in 2004. Numerous issues, as cited in a 92-page WTTC "report card" on the Caribbean that the organization released at the conference, need to be addressed. These issues include: a lack of awareness among government ministries about tourism's contributions to the economy; development of a strategic plan that will generate public/private support and implementation of an effective marketing campaign; addressing the AIDS/HIV problem and crime; and creating a viable Caribbean air transport system characterized by closer cooperation among regional carriers.

AMONG OTHER DEVELOPMENTS at CHIC, Berthia Parle, general manager of Bay Gardens Hotel in St. Lucia, was sworn in as the Caribbean Hotel Assn.'s first female president. Also, outgoing CHA president Simon Suarez was appointed to oversee the development of a Tourism Investment Fund.

LODGEPODGE
• The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino plans a $13 million facelift of its guest rooms, public areas, meetings rooms, banquet space and Vineyard restaurant. Guest rooms will have new furniture, plasma-screen TVs, safes with electrical outlets inside so guests can charge their laptops while storing them, new bathroom fixtures, and chair beds. The lobby will expand to include direct access to the pool, and the casino will be equipped with new games and slot machines. A second bar and restaurant, to be run by an independent operator, will go up next to the casino.
• Almond Resorts in Barbados will unveil the final phase of its $10 million refurbishment project by the end of the summer season. All rooms, suites, furniture, fixtures and recreation areas at both Almond Beach Club & Spa and Almond Beach Village are being upgraded as well as patios, pool decks and equipment in the fitness centers at both properties. The Kids Club nursery at Almond Beach Village will get a kids-only freshwater pool; bigger kids can take advantage of a new waterfall and slide at the existing Kids Club pool. For details, visit www.almondresorts.com.
• Sunset Beach Resort & Spa and sister property Sunset at the Palms, both in Montego Bay, Jamaica, plan a $27 million expansion in time for the winter 2005 season. New facilities at Sunset Beach will include a themed water park with two water slides, waterfalls, a meandering river, Jacuzzis, a fantasy mountain, a fort and pirate ship; a second wedding gazebo; an upgraded children's facility; and an expanded Banana Walk buffet dining venue. At Sunset at the Palms, guest rooms, the dining room, beach bar and grill facilities will be expanded and a treetop-level restaurant and spa will be added. For details, call (800) 234-1707.
• Coral by Hilton's four all-inclusive properties in the Dominican Republic offer four new packages targeted at the golf, honeymoon, wedding and spa markets. The specialized plans provide add-on values to Coral by Hilton's overnight rates that start at $89 per person, double. The Golfers Getaway, for example, is an additional $320 per person, per three-night stay (through Dec. 23), and entitles guests at Hamaca Coral by Hilton and Costa Caribe Coral by Hilton full access to Guavaberry Golf & Country Club, three greens fees with cart, lunch, practice balls, club storage, and roundtrip shuttle service. For details, visit www.coralbyhilton.com.
• The former Old Yard Inn in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, demolished last year to make room for an updated guest room and apartment complex, will contain 77 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment units when completed next year. More than 75% of the units will be in the rental pool; Carol Kaufman, owner/director of sales said rates will be "moderately priced and the facilities geared to families and extended-family groups." Rates at the property, now called the Olde Yard Village, will range from $1,800 a week for a studio or one-bedroom unit in the summer season to $3,000 per week for a three-bedroom unit during the Christmas holiday. Commission will be 15%. Each unit will have a fully equipped kitchen and maid service; facilities will include meetings facilities for groups up to 60; tennis and squash courts; two pools; boutique shops; a Laundromat; and Giorgio's poolside restaurant. For details, visit www.oldeyardvillage.com.

LUXURY TOUR OPERATOR Island Destinations unveiled its second annual 2004 Special Edition Summer Program that highlights 14 resorts in 12 destinations and pays 15% commission on refundable bulk air reservations. Highlights include the seven-night Sea of Love package at CuisinArt Resort & Spa in Anguilla, priced from $3,425 per couple through Sept. 6, that includes beachfront junior suite accommodations, daily breakfast, three lunches and three dinners at the resort's restaurants, a one-day car rental, a couple's massage and other spa services. A four-night package at Sandy Lane, Barbados starts at $800 per night, double through Oct. 31, which covers a room upgrade, two $50 spa vouchers, daily breakfast and one lunch for two. For details, visit www.islanddestinations.com.

TAKEOFFS
• US Airways filed for approval to begin code sharing with Bahamasair later this summer on its 20 daily flights between US Airways' U.S. gateways and Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas. The relationship, which would encompass reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, also would cover 28 intra-Bahamian flights, including new US Airways' service to Governors Harbour, George Town, Treasure Cay and San Salvador in the Out Islands. Bahamasair operates daily from Nassau to 20 destinations in the Bahamas, four in Florida, and service into Turks and Caicos.
• In addition, US Airways inaugurated flights between New York (LaGuardia) and St. Thomas June 12. The weekly non-stop flights depart Saturdays from LaGuardia at 8:45 a.m., arriving in St. Thomas at 12:49 p.m. The return flight departs St. Thomas at 1:55 p.m., and arriving in New York at 5:50 p.m. Both flights operate aboard an A319 aircraft with 124 seats.
• The reincarnated Pan Am is a work in progress. The carrier's plan for twice-weekly summer service from Fort Lauderdale to St. Kitts has been shelved for now because of problems that arose regarding interline agreements, transfers and electronic bookings. St. Kitts was last served by the original Pan Am in 1986. In other St. Kitts news, American will launch nonstop flights three times a week from Miami to St. Kitts, beginning Nov. 3, which will expand to five a week Feb. 2.
• Continental launched daily service from Newark to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and four flights a week from Houston to Port of Spain, Trinidad and to Montego Bay, Jamaica, also four flights a week.

PENCIL IT IN
• 2004 St. Kitts Music Festival, June 24 to 27, Fort Thomas Hotel grounds.
• Carnival 2004 (Vincy Mas), June 25 to July 6, St. Vincent. Caribbean Star Airlines offers packages for two, four and six nights from Antigua, Grenada and Trinidad from $436 per person for air, taxes, transfers, hotel, tours and Carnival shows. For details, visit www.flycaribbeanstar.com.
• CropOver, July 10 to Aug. 2, Barbados. Special packages are available from various hotels including a six-night plan at the Crane hotel from $1,210 per couple for accommodations, transfers, one dinner for two and a welcome bottle of rum punch. To book, e-mail [email protected]. For festival events, visit www.barbados.org.
• Grenada Carnival, Aug. 9 and 10, islandwide celebrations. Call (800) 927-9554 for details.
• Music and Poetry Festival, Sept. 1 to 5, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

ROLODEX
• Gogo Worldwide Vacations' president Michelle Kassner named Susan Black executive vp-marketing. Black will spearhead marketing and product development for all of Gogo's destinations and initiatives as well as serve as a member of the firm's executive committee. Prior to joining Gogo, Black founded and co-chaired the Travel Commerce Conference Expo.
• Graeme Davis, general manager of the Westin St. John Resort & Villas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has been named area managing director for Caribbean, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Davis has direct responsibility for the St. John property, where he will continue as gm, as well as for the Westin & Sheraton at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort in the Bahamas and Temenos Anguilla, a St. Regis Retreat in Anguilla.
• Starwood Hotels & Resorts also named Bill Thompson as area director of sales and marketing for the southeast region of the U.S. for four Westin properties: the Westin St. John Resort & Villas; Westin & Sheraton at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort in the Bahamas; the West Hilton Head (S.C.) and the Westin Savannah (Ga.)
• Caneel Bay resort in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, named Rik Blyth managing director. Blyth takes over from Brian Young who will move to Rosewood Hotels & Resorts' executive offices in Dallas. Blyth, formerly with WTS Spa Services, is former general manager of Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
• Air Jamaica appointed Ursula Schleider director of marketing. Based in Miami, Schleider will be responsible for the airline's advertising, marketing and promotional programs in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. She formerly held marketing positions with Premier Cruise Line, The Campbell Group and Norwegian Cruise Line.

CORRECTION: The June 10 Caribbean E-letter erroneously reported that the Best of Barbados 2004 program offers a $200 airfare credit. Actually, it's a $100 per-person airfare credit, with a maximum of two adult credits per room.

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