New Developments in the Caribbean

A list of 15 tourism developments to watch in the ever-evolving Caribbean By: Mark Rogers
Caribbean Deck Chair Beach // © 2012 Thinkstock
Caribbean Deck Chair Beach // © 2012 Thinkstock

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Read about Sandals’ plan for reopening Grand Pineapple Negril.

The Caribbean is a proving ground for tourism — a region where new trends, attractions and levels of service are constantly evolving. Following are 15 developments to watch in the weeks and months ahead.

1. Sandals Over-the-Water Suites
Next year, the Caribbean will have the type of romantic accommodations normally associated with honeymoons in Tahiti. Sandals Resorts is in the midst of constructing 16 overwater suites at Sandals Grande Saint Lucian Spa & Beach Resort on St. Lucia. The suites will be perched on a deck built over the sea and will have glass-bottom floors, over-the-water hammocks, outdoor showers and whirlpools, plus underwater lights to provide night viewing of sea life. These will be the first of their kind in the Caribbean and are slated to be completed in 2013.

2. AMResorts Unlimited-Connectivity
AMResorts has launched a new, interactive Unlimited-Connectivity app that will be rolled out to all AMResorts brands by the end of 2012. The app allows guests to stay connected to home by using the app-to-app calls feature to call local and international phones in the U.S. and Canada, as well as send messages over the hotel’s Wi-Fi network without incurring any international cell phone roaming charges. Guests can create user profiles via their email, Facebook or Twitter accounts to contact staff directly, book spa appointments, reserve excursions and access information about dining, amenities, resort activities and local attractions. The free digital application is accessible for mobile download to iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android phones and Blackberry phones.

3. Kids’ Clubs Repurposed
Many hotels in the Caribbean have seen a decrease in families using kids’ clubs. With parents seeing less of their children at home, they are less willing to park them in a kids’ club during a family vacation. The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino heard the message loud and clear and tore down their kids’ club to build the H2Oasis Adults Only Swimming Pool (the resort still has a family pool). The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino also jettisoned its kids’ club in favor of family programs during peak family travel months.

4. Curacao’s Kura Hulanda Unveils Alternative Lifestyle Concierge
Sandton Kura Hulanda Hotel & Spa and Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club on Curacao have introduced a Lifestyle Concierge program to serve visiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender guests. A resident LGBT-specific concierge is on-call at Sandton Kura Hulanda Resorts to advise clients about what to do and where to go on gay-friendly Curacao, with nightlife being the Lifestyle Concierge’s specialty.

5. Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort Set to Open in Jamaica
The former Breezes Runaway Bay in Jamaica is in the process of being transformed into the family-friendly, all-inclusive Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort. The resort will begin welcoming guests in November after a multimillion-dollar renovation to public areas, restaurants, pools, guestrooms and meeting space. In the pipeline for 2013 is the resort’s wow factor: an expansive waterpark attached to the resort.

6. Cyber Monday Travel Deals
We are all familiar with Black Friday shopping hysteria. Directly following is Cyber Monday, the most popular online shopping day of the year, landing just after Thanksgiving weekend. The growing trend over the past three years has been for Caribbean resorts to offer flash sales on Cyber Monday, and 2012 is shaping up to be bigger than ever. There’s already talk that the “Today Show” will be doing a huge program linking Cyber Monday with amazing deals in the Caribbean.

7. St. Kitts - Kittitian Hill
St. Kitts keeps its commitment to a tourism-based economy with Kittitian Hill, a sustainable development with a range of offerings. Phase One will see the 2013 opening of a 90-room cottage hotel and an Ian Woosnam 18-hole championship golf course. Phase Two is called The Village and begins construction in 2013. It will comprise retail shops, a cinema, an amphitheater, a restaurant, a spa, tennis courts and a golf clubhouse.

8. Island Flavour Adventures Adds MoBay to Kingston Tours
Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston is often overlooked by tourists on the island’s north shore beach resorts. Island Flavour Adventures has just expanded its operation to include Kingston tours for vacationers in Montego Bay. Groups of 10 or more will be transported from MoBay to Kingston for a comprehensive tour of the capital at a price of $270 per person, including entry fees and lunch.

9. Unplug With Elite Island Resorts
Up until now, resorts have trumpeted how they could help guests stay connected. The pendulum is swinging the other way at Elite Island Resorts. The company is encouraging guests to free themselves from their cell phones, smart phones and laptops while on vacation by creating device-free beaches at several beach resorts: Galley Bay Resort & Spa, St. James’s Club & Villas and The Verandah Resort & Spa, all located in Antigua, and Palm Island Resort, a private-island resort in the Grenadines. Guests will still be able to connect in other areas of the resorts, but the clicking, tweeting and messaging will be off limits at these device-free beaches.

10. New Destinations Served by JetBlue
JetBlue Airways continues to build its fan base in the Caribbean with the addition of new service to two Caribbean destinations. Effective Nov. 14, the carrier will launch twice-weekly flights between JFK and Samana’s El Catey International Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is the only service between the U.S. and the emerging Dominican Republic tourist destination of Samana, which many call the best-kept secret in the Caribbean. Beginning on Nov. 17, JetBlue will offer service to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, with three times weekly service from JFK and weekly service from Boston’s Logan International Airport.

11. Karisma Opens in Jamaica
Karisma Hotels & Resorts has made a name for itself on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The company is now expanding to Jamaica, having acquired a majority and controlling interest of Sandy Bay Beach in Negril. Following a 60-day transition period, the 128-room Seashore Bay Beach Resort will operate as an all-inclusive property for couples, singles and families and will be ready to welcome guests by Dec. 1.

12. Pets Get the Royal Treatment
Eden Roc at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic has inaugurated a VIP (Very Important Pet) program. Upon arrival, pets find a room equipped with fresh food, water bowls, pet treats, plush towels, royal dog bedding and deluxe cat litter. Pets will have access to the Eden Roc Hotel and Caleton Beach Club (excluding indoor restaurants and the spa). Pets can even take a dip in the guest’s private suite pool. The cost to participate in the program is $50 per day — pets weighing up to 30 pounds can take part in the VIP program.

13. New Airport to open on St. Vincent
St. Vincent and the Grenadines will soon see the opening of its first international airport. Argyle International Airport will open in late 2013 and be fully operational by early 2014, replacing the existing ET Joshua Airport and offering direct international jet service from the U.S., Canada and Europe. Argyle is designed to accommodate jets as large as Boeing 747-400s. The new airport represents an investment of $240 million — the country’s most costly capital project in its history.

14. Weddings by Chukka
Uber-experienced tour operator Chukka Caribbean Adventures continues to tweak its Jamaica offerings by presenting Weddings at Chukka. The company offers two wedding venues: Good Hope, an 18th-century Great House with splendid views of the mountains and forests of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, and Cranbrook Flower Forest, a 40-acre botanical garden in Ocho Rios.

15. Hard Rock’s Rock Star Suites
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana has elevated the all-inclusive experience with its luxe-branded Rock Star Suites. Guests get the diva treatment, with an in-room spa, butler service, a private pool with a beach concierge and drink service and other perks that might have you asking them to pick out the brown M&Ms for you.

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