Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Nov. 6, 2003

THE RENAISSANCE GRAND BEACH RESORT in St. Thomas changed hands for the fourth time since the 290-room property on the island's east end opened in 1984. Mexico-based Palace Resorts, with six inclusive properties in and near Cancun, purchased the Renaissance property for $9.75 million from local owners, ending six years of Marriott Int'l management. The resort will likely become an inclusive, joining Wyndham Sugar Bay Beach Club & Resort and Bolongo Bay Beach Club & Villas on the island in that category. Although the sale trims Marriott's inventory on St. Thomas by about 21%, the firm still manages Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Beach Resorts and owns and manages the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. The Renaissance opened in 1984 as the Wyndham Virgin Grand Beach Resort; switched to Stouffers in 1993 and to the Renaissance in 1996. Hurricane Hugo battered the beachfront property in 1989, closing it for nine months; Hurricane Marilyn closed it for a year in 1995.

HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY to Puerto Rico's 23 paradors, which represent 924 guest rooms (approximately 8% of the island's total inventory of 12,317 rooms). The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. recently launched a $600,000 campaign called "30 Years of Family Tradition," to run through December 2004, aimed at increasing weekday occupancies, which average between 10% and 20%. Weekend occupancies, on the other hand, often exceed 50%. Paradors target budget-conscious travelers and usually lack amenities such as 24-hour room service, fitness centers, spas and golf courses. To be recognized as a parador, according to PRTC, requirements are that the properties be outside San Juan, have between seven and 75 rooms and be family-owned and operated. The average room rate ranges between $65 to $120 a night. For information and details on special parador packages, visit www.gotopuertorico.com.

AIR BYTES
• Delta and Air Jamaica expanded their code-share offerings with flights from Baltimore, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Orlando and Philadelphia to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and from Fort Lauderdale to Kingston, Jamaica.
• Air Jamaica, meanwhile, will increase its Boston-Montego Bay service from five days a week to daily service, effective Nov. 18. On Dec. 12, Airbus 321s will replace the Airbus A320 on the route, adding 38 more seats per flight per day. Hot meal service remains a fixture on these flights.
• American's winter service to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which takes effect Dec. 15, includes direct flights from Boston to St. Thomas and from New York to St. Thomas five times weekly. American Eagle will offer eight daily flights between San Juan and St. Croix and 10 from San Juan to St. Thomas.
• Caribbean Sun begins U.S. Virgin Islands' flights Dec. 11 with three daily St. Thomas-San Juan flights and daily St. Croix-San Juan service.
• United will launch daily nonstop A320 service from Washington (Dulles) to San Juan Dec. 15. United currently flies weekend-only service between Dulles and San Juan via St. Thomas.

PENCIL IT IN
• Crucian Christmas Festival, throughout December, St. Croix.
• Adventures in Travel Expo, New York City, Jan. 9 to 11, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. For details on the Caribbean-related exhibitors with booths, visit, www.adventureexpo.com.
• 11th Annual Barbados Jazz Festival, Jan. 12 to 18, Barbados. For info, visit www.barbadosjazzfestival.com.
• Annual Mustique Blues Festival, Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, Mustique.
• British Virgin Islands Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, March 29 to April 4, Nanny Cay Marina, Tortola, B.V.I. For details, visit www.bvispringregatta.org.

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