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Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:00

A Place in the Sun - Selling the Caribbean

Written by  Melanie Reffes

Caribbean-CHTAOrganized by Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) in partnership with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2014 was a resounding success at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The largest marketing event in the region attracted 1,246 delegates including buyers from twenty countries, tour operators, wholesalers, hoteliers, airline representatives and government officials. “We were especially pleased with the high level of optimism and enthusiasm this year,” said Richard Doumeng, president of CHTA. “This is a clear indication that interest is definitely increasing in the region.”

Honored as Hotelier of the Year, George Markantonis, managing director at Atlantis Paradise Island, was recognized for his commitment to staff training and implementation of sound environmental practices. The 34th recipient of the prestigious award, the industry veteran is also responsible for the One & Only Palmilla in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and the One & Only Ocean Club in The Bahamas. For more information please visit www.caribbeanhotelassociation.com

Host with the Most
Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, was jubilant about positive growth in the tourism sector. “We have attracted substantial investment in acquisitions and upgrading of several properties which has brought 840 rooms on stream in the past year.” Looking to the future, the prime minister added, “We are expecting another year of continued growth, bolstered by a more robust product, new advertising campaign, marketing muscle of new hotel brands, increased air seats from previously untapped markets as well as an intense cruise itinerary for 2014.“

Celebrating record arrival numbers, tourism minister, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, told delegates Jamaica is on a visitor roll. “We ended 2013 on a very high note, welcoming for the first time, over two million stopover visitors and earning an estimated two billion US dollars.” With an eye to arrivals after high season, he announced an incentive aimed at keeping arrival numbers high year round. “90 Days of Summer” is a series of events beginning May 15 that will spotlight creative sectors like film, fashion, sports and music.

New on the hotel horizon, Jamaica’s first Azul Sensatori Hotel by Karisma Resorts is open in Negril with 136 rooms; in Falmouth, the 352-room Royalton White Sands tempts with a sushi bar and water park; 225-room adults-only Jewel Paradise Cove in Runaway Bay is a big hit with the wedding market, and the upscale 238-room RIU Palace is open for business in Montego Bay. Openings slated for later this year include 427-room Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and 226-room Melia Jamaica.

Eat, Play & Arrive
Delta Vacations announced its list of the ‘Top Ten‘ Caribbean vacation destinations for 2014 based on the most room nights booked from 2009 to 2013. Leading the pack, Dominican Republic is followed by Jamaica, Aruba, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Grand Cayman and Antigua. “These destinations continue to represent huge opportunities for travel agents to not only provide great value for their clients, but also to create unforgettable vacations,” said John Caldwell, president of MLT Vacations. www.worldagentdirect.com

Arrivals from Anguilla are at an uptick with a 6 percent hike last year and further increases anticipated for this year when the Malliouhana Hotel reopens in October with forty-six ocean view rooms and a gigantic spa. Built atop a panoramic bluff overlooking the Caribbean, the uber-luxe resort on the white sands of Meads Bay and Turtle Cove beaches will offer two restaurants, two bars and two freshwater pools. “In addition to the new hotel rooms coming on stream, Carnival, which takes place from July 2 to August 10, will undoubtedly encourage visitors to arrive to our sandy shores year round,“ said Haydn Hughes, parliamentary secretary of tourism.

In Curacao, new hotels include the 145-room Akoya Resort to open in April, 150-room Courtyard Marriott next year in Willemstad, and 250-room Hard Rock on the horizon for 2016. “With so many hotel rooms coming on board, we’re now focusing on securing additional airlift,“ said Andre Rojer, marketing manager of the North America Curacao Tourism Board. In St. Maarten, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa has reopened following expansive upgrades. Adults-only and all-inclusive, the seaside resort is the sister property to the bigger Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and aims to please with champagne check-in and butlers in the Miramar Wing suites. www.sonesta.com

Racquel Brown has taken her post as the new CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority. A veteran of the tourism industry, she was most recently the Deputy Director for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. On the horizon, Park Hyatt will open next year and a second cruise ship is being built in Basseterre.

Brand new with an impressive portfolio of two hundred villas in Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica and St. Lucia, Blue Sky Luxury is targeting destination weddings and leisure travelers who prefer a more intimate vacation to a stay at a mega-resort. Stand-outs include Fustic House in Barbados with a pool designed to resemble a natural lagoon and koi-filled lotus lake ideal for weddings. “Couples can create a truly bespoke wedding when they choose a villa for their nuptials. They will be the only bride and groom, and without disappointment if a sunset ceremony is already booked by another couple.“ said Dominique Silvera, manager of holiday rentals. www.blueskyluxury.com

Unveiling the latest in the Island Routes Adventure Tours portfolio, General Manager David Shields described the River Bumpkin Farm Tour in Jamaica as an adventure paradise offering river tubing, biking and kayaking down the Martha Brae River. On a stately plantation in Trelawney, the farm is the company’s first owned and operated property and includes the original Distilling House which still produces rum. Island Routes sells 400 tours on eleven islands including their newest in the Dominican Republic, Nassau, St. Maarten and Aruba. Tours in Belize, St Kitts and Dominica will open later this year. www.islandroutes.com

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