Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: June 24, 2004

SONESTA will re-enter the Caribbean market July 8 when the 534-room Maho Beach Resort & Casino on St. Maarten's southwest shore is rebranded as a Sonesta. The hotel firm executed a tactical retreat from the region when it sold its Anguilla property in September 2002 and its Bermuda resort this spring. Stephanie Sonnabend, Sonesta CEO and president, said the firm "would consider other properties in the Caribbean if they are consistent with our standards and expansion goals." Sonesta named Danilo Checcuci, a Sonesta executive who has worked for the hotel firm in Curacao, Italy and Cairo, general manger of Maho Beach. Facilities at Maho Beach include a casino, and the Theatre Royale; a nightclub; two pools and a beach; three restaurants; a promenade of 40 boutiques; four tennis courts, the Good Life Spa and a fitness center; and 59,000 square feet of meetings space. Daily rates range from $190 to $660 per room, double, through Dec. 17.

ARUBA, Jamaica, St. Lucia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Bermuda landed in the list of the top 10 honeymoon destinations in the world, according to Modern Bride magazine, which polled 3,000 travel agents for its 8th annual honeymoon survey of the top 50 "most seductive destinations." Approximately 40% of the top 50 honeymoon choices are in the Caribbean region, according to the survey results.

LODGEPODGE
• The 20-room Cotton House on Mustique is closed through Nov. 30 for an extensive renovation and expansion project, according to general manager Nicholas Simmonds. Additions include a large swimming pool, private plunge pools in several suites, and construction of the three-bedroom Cotton Hill Villa. The tennis courts will be resurfaced and all guestrooms and bathrooms refurbished. The Beach Cafe and Spa remains open for island guests during the renovation.
• Club Seabourne in Culebra, Puerto Rico, plans to add 10 cottage villas to its 14-unit resort and now offers special rates for agents of $100 per room, per night, single or double, plus 9% tax, subject to availability. The resort pays 10% commission and includes airport transfers and breakfast in its daily rates, which start at $195, double. For details, visit www.clubseabourne.com or call (800) 981-4435.
• Club Med's New York Double Dip sale offers a free stay for a companion for seven-night bookings through Aug. 10 and travel through Aug. 27 to Club Med Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, or Club Med Turkoise, Turks and Caicos. Charter air and land rates are $1,207 at Punta Cana and $1,415 at Turkoise, with companion rates at $520 and $430, respectively. To book, call (800) CLUB MED.
• Beaches Negril Resort & Spa's newest addition is its 18,000-square-foot Pirates Islands waterpark, which features waterslides, a 392-foot lazy river, spiraling tunnels, a splash deck and an oversized Jacuzzi (for mom and dad).
• The 66-room Spice Island Beach Resort and the 32-room Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel in Grenada raised agent commissions from 10% to 15% for bookings and travel through Dec. 14 made directly with the two properties via phone, fax or e-mail. The Web sites are: www.spiceislandbeachresort.com and www.grenadabluehorizons.com.
• The 10-year marketing agreement tying LaSource on Grenada to SunSwept Resorts, which markets the Body Holiday at LeSport and Rendezvous on St. Lucia, has ended and LaSource is taking off in "new directions," according to Leon Taylor, managing director. The 100-room resort will add a new wing of 30 more guestrooms, renovate and expand its spa, install a second pool and open a beach bar/lounge with a tapas restaurant.

TAKEOFFS
• American Eagle launched a daily [weekday] nonstop flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Nassau through Sept. 7 and beginning again Dec. 15. American Airlines provides weekend service between the two destinations. In addition, American will offer nonstop weekend service from New York [LaGuardia] to Nassau July 3.
• Beginning July 1, American will offer daily nonstops from New York [Kennedy] to Kingston, Jamaica.
• Laker Airways Bahamas will offer two weekly flights from Lansing, Mich., to Nassau, effective Oct. 24 with a stop in Columbus, Ohio.

* JetBlue launched daily service from New York [Kennedy] to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, following its debut of twice-daily flights between Kennedy and Santiago, D.R.

NAMED HOTELIER OF THE YEAR by the Caribbean Hotel Assn. and American Express at the recent Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference in Puerto Rico was St. Maarten hotelier Robert Dubourcq, general manager of Great Bay Beach Resort. Dubourcq was one of the founders of the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Assn. and has served as its president several times. Other hotel honors went to Leroy Jordan of the Hyatt Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands as hotel employee of the year and to Doris Dreischor of the Bucuti Beach Resort in Aruba, named supervisor of the year. Two Sandals properties in Jamaica swept the top awards in environmental management: Sandals Inn in Montego Bay won in the small hotel category (less than 75 rooms) and Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf Club in Ocho Rios won the large hotel category (75 rooms or more).

ROLODEX
• The Jamaica Tourist Board unveiled a Marcella Martinez Award, which will be presented annually for achievement in the design and implementation of successful programs to strengthen and support a Caribbean destination's marketing efforts. The award celebrates the contributions of public relations expert Marcella Martinez for promoting tourism to the Caribbean region. Jamaican by birth, Martinez is president of her own New York public relations agency with a long roster of past and present Caribbean clients. Paul Pennicook, Jamaica's director of tourism, said the first recipient will be honored at the Caribbean Tourism Organization's Allied Members Award luncheon during Caribbean Week 2005.
• Starwood named Bill Thompson 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 Westin Hilton [S.C.] and the Westin Savannah [Ga.].
• Gonzalo Aguilar has been named general manager for the Marriott Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Beach Resort in St. Thomas. Most recently Aguilar was gm at the Los Suenos Marriott in Costa Rica.
• Hendrick Santos was appointed vp and managing director of the 600-room Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Santos was formerly gm of the Hyatt Regency Miami.
• Ana Maria Viscasillas was named president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, effective immediately. Since March, Viscasillas has served as acting executive director, following the resignation of Jorge Pescara. The PRCB is the official sales and marketing agent for the center, which is scheduled to open in late 2005.

OOPS: Sunset at the Palms resort is located in Negril, Jamaica, not Montego Bay, as incorrectly reported in the June 17 E-letter. Sorry, mon!

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