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Amid the announcements about new resorts and aggressive
marketing campaigns during this year’s Caribbean Marketplace, there
was evidence that not everything is palm tress and sunny skies for
the Caribbean tourism industry.
Host country Aruba, still hurting from coverage of the Natalee
Holloway disappearance case, posted a 6 percent decrease in
arrivals in 2006 and several other islands reported that arrivals
were either flat or up only slightly from 2005. Overall, the number
of visitors to the region was up 5 to 6 percent for the year,
according to new Caribbean Tourism Organization president Allen
Chastanet, but he was among the industry officials sounding a
In the last 15 years, Caribbean tourism has seen its share of
world tourism drop from about 4 percent to less than one percent,
said Chastanet, minister of tourism for St. Lucia. While land-based
Caribbean tourism grew 91 percent during that period, almost 50
percent of the growth came from the Dominican Republic and Cuba, he
“It really means we had a dismal time compared to the potential
in the world growth,” Chastanet said. “In many ways the Caribbean
has been resting on its laurels.”
The CTO and Caribbean Hotel Association used the Marketplace for
the first board meeting of the Caribbean Tourism Development Corp.,
the long-awaited public-private partnership to market the region.
The result of an agreement signed in September 2005, the new
nonprofit group will focus on promoting the Caribbean brand,
including increased advertising and special events in the United
In other Marketplace news:
St. Maarten and St. Martin announced the first-ever joint
marketing campaign between the French and Dutch sides of the
island. Budgeted for $1.2 million, the marketing push will focus on
the slogan, “Bring Your Appetite for Life.” Tourism officials were
also touting the November completion of a $90 million expansion of
the St. Maarten airport and the December opening of the 311-room
Westin Dawn Beach Resort in St. Maarten.
Aruba will open the island’s first private jet terminal in the
first part of 2007, as part of a $35 million expansion of Queen
Beatrix International Airport. The government is also launching a
massive reconstruction of the Oranjested waterfront, including
relocation of cargo and loading docks to make way for new cruise
facilities and a $10 million linear park to stretch from the
airport to Eagle Beach. In the hotel market, the Spanish chain Sol
Melia was reportedly finalizing a deal to purchase the shuttered
Bushiri Beach Resort near downtown Oranjestad, with plans to
renovate and expand it to 450 rooms.
Tour operator Travel Impressions has added 10 properties to its
portfolio, plus Barcelo’s all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and
Riviera Maya. The fast-growing company is also tweaking its Web
site to allow agents to add a surcharge and arrange for customized
travel documents. And the one percent commission bonus for online
bookings will likely be extended in 2007, according to chief
marketing officer John Hanratty. Although Travel Impressions was
primarily known as an East Coast company, today 50 percent of its
business is coming from west of the Mississippi, Hanratty said.
SuperClubs is extending its Passport Included offer to travel
agents and groups. Under the policy, SuperClubs will reimburse
customers for the fee to acquire a new passport to meet new U.S.
travel guidelines for the Caribbean.
“We don’t want groups of 200 to 300 people not coming because of
passports,” said executive vice president Tom Trotta.
SuperClubs also said it is set to reopen Breezes Runaway Bay on
the north shore of Jamaica, after a $20 million expansion.
Divi Resorts is planning to open the first new resort on Bonaire
since 1996. The company has leased the land once occupied by the
Sunset Beach Resort and plans a 300-room all-inclusive, with
construction set to begin later this year. Divi managing director
Alex Nieuwmeyer said the company believes the tiny island will be
able to expand its airlift by 2009.
Puerto Rico is launching a new “one-stop” Web site for
information and booking rooms. Accessible through the Puerto Rico
Tourism Company’s official site, GoToPuertoRico.com, the site will
offers rates and hotel information, as well as the ability to book
small inns. Meanwhile, San Juan’s Normandie Hotel is finishing an
extensive renovation and is set to reopen in 2007 as a W Hotel.
As part of the creation of the Caribbean Tourism Development
Corporation, the Caribbean Gold Book, which was widely used by
travel agents, will be renovated and reborn as CaribbeanTravel.com.
The new magazine and Web combo will offer more information and a
broader scope, as well as 1,300 detailed hotel listings.
“CaribbeanTravel.com will be the place where travel agents and
travel trade will go for information on what is happening that is
important to them,” said CTO secretary general Vincent