Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Nov. 13, 2003

CARIBBEAN ESCAPES COOPERATIVE MARKETING (CECM) launched at World Travel Market this week in London by Glenn Harris, former American Express marketing director for the Caribbean and Latin America, targeting the luxury travel niche through its Caribbean Escapes Collection, a by-invitation-only select list of 100 deluxe properties (as well as restaurants, spas, golf courses and boutique shops) on 25 Caribbean islands. Collection components include a glossy, 400-page annual book, which will debut next July, featuring property descriptions and photos and will be placed in resort guest rooms, will be available on CECM's Web site [www.caribbeanescapes.com] and sold through bookstores nationwide. A 30-minute cable TV show will air four times a week starting in April to showcase the collection's destinations and resorts as well; at press time, company officials said the show would appear in two cities but declined to name them. Benefits to agents include immediate access to updated material on the Caribbean's luxury travel market; online booking capability at CECM's Web site, with 10% commission paid; and heightened awareness of agent role in the mind of the consumer through the TV shows, officials said.

OCCIDENTAL HOTELS & RESORTS' new travel agent rewards' program enables agents to earn $30 per new booking at its all-inclusive resorts in Aruba, Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Mexico. The most business booked to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Cozumel or Xcaret in Mexico earns the winner a first place prize of $10,000. The agent who accumulates the most overall bookings through April 30 for travel through June 30 will take home a Mercedes SLK 230 roadster convertible, valued at $40,000. Agents can log onto www.occidentalhotels.info to download instructions and a scorecard.

LODGEPODGE
• Opening date for the 88-suite Carlisle Bay resort on Antigua's south coast is Nov. 29. General manager Alistair Forrest reported "a near sellout" for the Christmas-New Year period. Opening rates start at $595 per night, double, with breakfast and afternoon tea; rates from Jan. 5 to May 15 start at $850. Owner Gordon Campbell Gray, who also created and owns One Aldwych Hotel in London, plans to expand further in the Caribbean with a resort in Tobago. To book, call (800) 628-8929 or visit www.carlisle-bay.com.
• Grand Bay Palace is the new name of the former Renaissance Grand Beach Resort in St. Thomas. The 290-room property changed management last week from Marriott International to Mexico-based Palace Resorts. Roberto Chapur, president of Palace Resorts, confirmed that the renamed resort has gone the all-inclusive route. The new general manager is Luis Entrala, who replaced David Yamada, the former general manager of the Renaissance.
• The new management team at Compass Point in Nassau is adding air conditioning to the resort's 19 cottage units. Chris Blackwell, Island Outpost founder, leased Compass Point to Bryan and Jennifer Hew in September, but the resort remains part of the Island Outpost group. For details, visit www.islandoutpost.com.
• Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa on Dickinson Bay broke ground on its $25 million Mediterranean Village, which will include 90 junior suites, 10 executive suites, 14 plunge-pool suites, a new Italian restaurant and a London-style pub.
• The 430-room inclusive Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica, completed a $2.6 million guest room renovation that features a new paint scheme, bathroom vanities, furniture and soft goods. Rates from Jan. 1 through April 12 start at $250 per room, per night, double. To book, visit www.sunsetbeachjamaica.com.

TOUR NEWS
• Apple Vacations Winter Supersale, valid for bookings through Nov. 22, features seven-night air and hotel packages from Apple's gateway cities to several Caribbean destinations, including Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Lucia. For details, visit www.applevacations.com or call (800) 365-2775.
• Luxury tour operator Island Destinations' 2004 Travelers Collection includes two new destinations, Bermuda and Costa Rica, and seven new properties among its offerings of 50 resorts and hotels in the Caribbean, Mexico, French Polynesia and Fiji. The collection also features 30 villa properties on St. Barts, which marks the firm's entry into agent-only villa inventory on the island. For reservations and information, visit www.islanddestinations.com.
• Happy Vacations has been added to the list of tour operators authorized to sell Royal Plantation Spa & Golf Resort in Jamaica in 2004, joining Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Travel Impressions, Air Jamaica Vacations, Mark Travel, Classic Custom Vacations and Pleasant Holidays.

PUERTO RICO'S new Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico opened its doors in the historic Rafael M. Labra building in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan. More than 700 works from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America form the island's largest permanent collection of contemporary art. Museum hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students, free for children and seniors. For information, call (787) 977-6277 or visit www.museocontemporaneopr.org.

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