Despite the “halo effect” of hurricanes and world turmoil,
tourism to the Caribbean was up in 2005, according to officials
gathered for the annual Caribbean Marketplace, Jan. 15-18 in San
Juan, Puerto Rico.
“International airline traffic actually grew 8 percent, against
all odds,” said Caribbean Hotel Association president Berthia
The event which attracted 1,440 delegates, down slightly from
2005 was a coming-out party of sorts for the new
580,000-square-foot San Juan Convention Center, which opened in
November as the largest of its kind in the Caribbean. It also
marked the first Marketplace since the Caribbean Hotel Association
and Caribbean Tourism Organization agreed last year to work
“There is a recognition of the need to promote the Caribbean,”
said Alec Sanguinetti, director general of the CHA. “One of the
first areas was to minimize areas of duplication, so we’re not
directing funds at similar programs.”
In other news from the Marketplace: The Ritz Carlton in Cancun
will remain closed until at least April, company executives said.
In the wake of Hurricane Wilma, the Kukulcan Boulevard staple is
going through a complete renovation. Ritz is also moving forward
with Molasses Reef, a 125-room boutique resort on the uninhabited
island of West Caicos, expected to open in 2007. Perhaps more
shocking Ritz announced that coffeemakers would soon be available
in some resort rooms, after years of whining from guests.
Arrivals from the U.S. to St. Martin grew by 10 percent in 2005,
according to director of tourism Alex Richards. The tourism
operations of St. Marteen and St. Martin are “repositioning,
restructuring and reorganizing,” promising a new era of
cooperation, he said. Meanwhile a $90 million overhaul of the
airport in St. Marteen is expected to be completed by the second
half of 2006. Although nothing is official yet, Richards said Four
Seasons is expected to take over La Belle Creole, a closed resort
on the tip of a 25-acre peninsula in French St. Martin, and there
is a new 310-room Westin in the works.
Infused with the spirit of its new celebrity clientele, ranging
from Bill Clinton to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the Dominican
Republic is starting to evolve into a high-class destination,
according to vice minister of tourism Luis Simo.
“Traditionally we have been a destination of all-inclusive
hotels, but as of today that is changing,” Simo said.
He expects the Dominican Republic to add another 15,000 hotels
by 2008, including several high-end projects.
“The Dominican Republic has evolved from a European destination
into more of a North American destination,” he said.
According to Simo, the number of tourists to the Dominican
Republic was up 8 percent in 2005.
In the wake of the official cessation of sugar production, St.
Kitt is launching a new pro-tourism campaign, based on an
eight-point plan to promote the island. High on the list is
developing the bed and breakfast and small hotel market, according
to Ricky Skerritt from St. Kitt’s ministry of tourism. Premier
Resort’s Le Valle is now scheduled to open at the end of the first
quarter, three months behind schedule.
LXR Luxury Resorts, the Blackstone Real Estate Group subsidiary
that bought up the Wyndham International chain last year, announced
plans to spend $50 million on a renovation of the Condado Plaza in
San Juan and installed former Caribe Hilton chief Raul Bustamante
as the new managing director.
Martinique and St. Barth’s are new targets for Travel
Impressions, which is also bulking up its commitment to lesser
known Guadeloupe. Part of the French Antilles, Guadeloupe is a
wonderful cultural destination, CEO Steve Gorga said. The tour
operator will offer eight properties on Martinique and seven on St.
Superclubs CEO John Issa cited Jamaica, the Bahamas and the
Dominican Republic as the hot Caribbean markets. Superclubs is
wading into the premium wedding competition with the Wedding Bliss
Collection, themed packages available at the Grand Lido Resorts.
The chain is also offering travel agent clients a $150 to $350 per
room spa credit at Grand Lidos.
Caribbean hotels participating in the Caribbean Hotel
Association Reservation Marketing Service (CHARMS) posted an
aggregate revenue increase of 143.4 percent and 70.7 percent
increase in average daily rates in 2005, the CHA announced.
Bonaire is expanding its annual dive festival, scheduled this
year for June 17-24. Now dubbed Dive into Adventure Bonaire 2006,
the event will be expanded to include kayaking, mountain-biking,
windsurfing and kiteboarding, as well as a wide array of
Best line from the Marketplace: “As you know, Aruba’s name
recognition has never been higher,” said Aruba Hotel and Tourism
president Jorge Pesquera at a press conference called to discuss
the much-publicized disappearance on Aruba of Alabama teenager
Natalee Holloway. The press conference featured a presentation by
Steve Cohen, a former CBS executive hired by the government to
handle crisis management.