NEW YORK -- BWIA will launch its own tour operation on April 15, featuring "all the hotels and all the destinations" that BWIA and LIAT, its regional partner, serve in the Caribbean.

Conrad Aleong, president and CEO of BWIA, said the move is part of a five year strategic plan to expand the carrier's market to include more leisure sales.

In the earliest phases, he said, the plan called for upgraded service, improved on-time performance, enhanced technology, increases in frequencies and numbers of nonstops, plus replacement of aircraft.

The plan also envisions taking the carrier public in the U.S. in 2004, according to Aleong. The carrier previously went public in the Caribbean in early 1995.

BWIA serves 10 Caribbean destinations, and that number is more than 30 when counting connections on its regional partner, LIAT. It also flies from four North American airports (Miami, New York, Toronto and Washington) and code shares with United.

New routes have been or will be added as well: twice-weekly fllights from Washington's Dulles to Caracas, Venezuela, on March 8; Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, to Paramaribo, Surinam, on April 15, and Port-of-Spain to Maturin, Venezuela, on June 1.

The new tour operation will launch with rates valid through 2003, Aleong said.

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