Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: May 27, 2004

IT'S FALL SALE time in the Caribbean once again, spearheaded by airlift from American Airlines and other carriers serving the region. Operators are offering savings of up to 35% on air and land packages on bookings made by June 11 [June 8 for US Airways Vacations packages] for travel beginning Aug. 16. Blackout dates and restrictions apply around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's and travel end dates vary, depending on the operator and carrier, although most programs run through Dec. 14 [programs on Air Jamaica run to Feb. 16]. Most are minimum five-night packages; rates cover roundtrip midweek air, accommodations, transfers and some extras at numerous properties on the major islands. All rates are per person, double. Here is a partial rundown of participating tour operators, although most major Caribbean operators are promoting a sale:


• Air Jamaica Vacations: Air travel on Air Jamaica from 12 U.S. gateways to nine islands. Sample savings on an all-inclusive five-night package can be up to $1,090 per couple to Almond Beach Village in Barbados from New York (JFK). For details, visit www.vaxvacationaccess.com or use the GDSs with code AJV.
• Gogo Worldwide Vacations: Air on American to 25 islands with accommodations at 250 resorts. Samples include Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort and Casino, from $629 from Miami and $699 from Philadelphia and New York, representing a savings of $177 per person. For details, visit www.gogowwv.com.
• Classic Custom Vacations: Air on American, Continental, Delta and US Airways as well as first-class travel on Air Jamaica to 59 properties on 18 islands. For details, visit www.classicforagents.com.
• US Airways Vacations: Three-night discounted packages to Aruba, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands [also, Bermuda and Cancun, Mexico]. For details, call (800) 455-0123 or visit Vax VacationAccess.
• TNT Vacations: Air on Air Jamaica, American, Delta and US Airways from Boston on three-night stays to 25 destinations in the Caribbean, Bermuda and Mexico; travel from other gateways and longer stays also is offered. For specifics, visit www.tntvacations.com.
• Funjet Vacations. Air on Air Jamaica to eight destinations, on American to 21 islands and on US Airways to 23. Three-night plans include a flight on US Airways to the Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort in Nassau start at $645 from Kansas City, Mo., and $535 from Philadelphia. For details, visit Vax VacationAccess using vendor code: FUN.

IT'S A NUMBERS GAME: More first-quarter results are in, proving that the winter season was a boom for the region. The Barbados Tourism Authority reported an 11% increase in U.S. arrivals through April 15, marking the third consecutive year that U.S. numbers are up. Overall leisure visitor arrivals jumped by 12.8% in the same period. In the Cayman Islands, numbers in April rivaled pre-9/11 tallies and part of the upswing was tied to new Continental flights from Houston, according to McKeeva Bush, minister of tourism. Total visitor arrivals in April rose 21.9%, outpacing the mark in April 2003, Bush said. Cruise arrivals jumped 7%; and for the quarter, air arrivals increased 80% compared with the first three months of 2003. Air arrivals in Belize, meanwhile, increased 13.4%, to more than 73,000 overnight visitors in the first quarter over the same period a year ago. Cruise sector growth jumped 65% in March and 55% in April over the same months a year ago, bringing more than 160,000 passengers into Belize City and beyond.

LODGEPODGE
• Mount Nevis Hotel's "Match Made in Nevis" family package, valid through Nov. 30, offers a two-bedroom superior suite with kitchen for four nights at $375 a night and four nights for free. Families who stay and pay for five nights get an additional five nights for free. The suite accommodates a family of four, and babysitting services are available. The 28-room property recently completed a million-dollar renovation. To book, call (800) 75-NEVIS.
• Club Med Turkoise in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, became the 70th member of the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA). Gordon Lightbourne, Club Med Turkoise's hotel service manager, took a slot on the TCHTA board.
• Sandals and Beaches Resorts extended the travel window through Feb. 6 on its Samsonite promotion, which gives a free set of luggage to clients booking stays of five nights or more by Oct. 31 for travel starting Aug. 15. There is a blackout period from Dec. 20 through 31 on five-night bookings, but a seven-night minimum stay during that time period still qualifies. The luggage -- a set of up to five pieces with a retail value of $400 -- is delivered to clients prior to their departure date. For details, visit www.sandals.com or www.beaches.com.

TORRENTIAL RAINS battered parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic this week, causing mudslides, flooding and deaths. More than 100 people were killed in the Jimani area of the western Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti. Scores more were reported dead and missing in Haiti as well. The hardest hit area in Haiti was the southeast region of the country where U.S. Marines and Canadian troops flew in relief supplies. Tourism areas in the Dominican Republic were not affected by the storms, according to the tourist office.

GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND welcomes the opening of its $30 million international airport terminal June 2, the first U.S. Customs pre-clearance facility to be built after 9/11. The new terminal, designed to meet customs and border protection standards required by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, will be used for international arrivals and U.S. departures. Facilities include 12 customs booths, advanced luggage scanning machines, a $1.5 million baggage facility, 22 ticket counters, shops, Internet kiosks and restaurants. The 11,000-foot-long runway, resurfaced for $5.5 million, can accommodate the largest planes now in service. The Westin and Sheraton at Our Lucaya, a partner with the Grand Bahama Airport Co. in the airport project, will offer a VIP reception lounge and other guest services.

ROLODEX
• The Water Club named Miguel Rodriguez general manager of the San Juan property. Rodriguez formerly was general manager at the Winterhaven Hotel in South Beach (Miami).
• Nicole La Valette joined Wyndham Sunshine Suites in Grand Cayman as sales manager. La Valette is the former general manager of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
• SuperClubs named Ron Droegmyer general manager of Grand Lido Braco in Trelawny on Jamaica's north coast.
• Elite Island Resorts, with properties in Antigua, St. Lucia, Tortola and Palm Island in the Grenadines, appointed Mikhail Shamkin as manager of Long Bay Beach Resort & Villas in Tortola. Shamkin formerly was with the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas and Prospect Reef Resort in Tortola. Also named to a general manager post was Keith Woodhouse, who joined St. James's Club, Morgan Bay, St. Lucia. Woodhouse most recently held a post with the Antigua Hotel & Tourist Association.

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