PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos -- The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board will open its first offices in New York and London in June, according to Ralph Higgs, deputy director of tourism.

In addition, the tourist board will launch a trade and consumer marketing campaign next month that may feature a new tagline to replace the "Beautiful by Nature" slogan now used.

The tourist board currently has a stateside office in Fort Lauderdale. Tourism personnel will share the space in the new offices with officials representing the investment and real estate end of the Turks and Caicos economy.

Higgs said, "The exposure to and the visibility of our tourism and investment products are key to maintaining and increasing our market share."

U.S. visitor arrivals by air last year to the Turks and Caicos numbered 130,000, up 10,000 over 2002, while the cruise sector jumped 15% over the previous year; a new port facility is scheduled to open on Grand Turk in November 2005.

Meanwhile, hotel occupancy figures increased 4% in the first quarter over the same period a year ago, according to the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA).

The growth in occupancies is linked to airlift enhancements that have "eased access to and increased awareness of the destination," according to Caesar Campbell, association director of the TCHTA.

Tom Lewis, TCHTA board director and managing director of Ocean Club Resorts, predicted that the upturn in occupancies would continue through the summer period.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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