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Caribbean Luxury UpdateJanuary 11, 2011 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
The 12th annual Luxury Travel Expo held in Las Vegas last month proved to be a valuable source of information for specialists selling the Caribbean in the New Year and beyond. Upon meeting various supplier representatives in the Expo, Travel Agent discovered how the destination is on its way up.
We spoke with Scott Ward, director of marketing and sales for Scrub Island , the British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) first new resort in nearly 15 years, and learned that the hotel portion of the resort, including all of its 52 rooms, is now complete. This wasn’t the case when we visited the resort back in January. In fact, since it opened, the resort has already hosted six each of groups and weddings.
“I think people just love that they can book the entire resort for a wedding if they want,” said Ward. “And then [they] can enjoy their wedding with only family and friends on their own island.”
That’s not the only good news. Steady progress is being made on the villa portion of this resort within a resort. The first one, a five-bedroom villa, opened in May. Four two-bedroom villas are expected to be ready by February or March, according to Ward.
Scrub Island is also home to the BVI’s newest fully flushing marina, which has 53 deep-water slips available for lease or transient docking, including five for mega-yachts up to 150 feet. The Scrub Island marina is at the heart of the resort, just a stroll away from restaurants and shops. The marina is also close to the North Drop, the hot spot for record-weight blue marlins. Guests may book full- or half-day fishing excursions complete with a boat, guide and equipment. At the marina, a variety of watercraft are available for group or private charter.
Harlequin Looks to Expand
Dave Ames is the chairman of a company that could be the next big thing in Caribbean luxury. Harlequin Hotels & Resorts recently soft-opened its first resort, the Buccament Bay Resort in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in August. The grand opening is slated for April 3. Due to the fantastic response—the resort has been mostly sold out since its soft opening—Ames feels confident enough to expand his brand throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
Work has already begun on projects in St. Lucia, the Dominican Republic and Barbados, and plans are underway for other resorts in Jamaica and Brazil. Harlequin Hotels & Resorts’ Harlequin Golf brand will continue to expand throughout the world, with other Harlequin Golf resorts possibly opening in China, Africa and India, although, Ames pointed out, those destinations are merely being scouted for new projects and that the company has made no definite plans.
“We’re looking into a lot of places because we feel we can do it, we feel we have proved ourselves,” Ames said. “We wanted to be people of our word and when we delivered everything we promised to the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who pretty much served as our partners for Buccament, we feel that we are.”
The Harlequin Golf resort in St. Lucia will be called the Gary Player Golf Hotel and will come with an 18-hole, Gary Player-designed golf course roughly a mile from the property.
The Buccament Bay Resort will be St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ first five-star resort. It currently has 72 villas, including one-, two-, and four-bedroom villas. Next year, there will be 200 villas in all. The number will go up to 368 villas in 2012.
Harlequin Hotels & Resorts also has its own planes to fly guests in from St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ two hubs, Barbados and St. Lucia. Guests won’t even have to clear customs until they arrive in St. Vincent and the Grenadines if they are staying at the resort.
Moderate Increase in Jamaica Arrivals
According to the Jamaica Tourist Board’s director of tourism, John L. Lynch, the destination saw a 6 percent rise in arrivals in November 2010 from the same month in 2009.
Lynch also told Travel Agent that the new Montego Bay Convention Centre will be functional by the upcoming Caribbean Marketplace 2011 to be held this month, January 16-18. Although there is still some work to do, including landscaping, Lynch is optimistic that the venue, which will be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean, will be ready to welcome industry representatives.
“Is it going to look like it was just finished? Sure, but it’s pretty much done and will be ready for the Caribbean Marketplace,” Lynch said.
The destination also continues to bolster its already robust air connectivity to the U.S. with additional service from Baltimore via AirTran, which will add flights on both Saturday and Sunday. Those flights are expected to launch next week, Lynch said.
On a side note, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has reported an increase in buyer registrations for Caribbean Marketplace 2011 versus the same time frame 2009, including eight new wholesalers from Russia, Canada, the U.S. and the UK. Additionally, registrations from the UK have already surpassed last year’s numbers, six weeks prior to the start of the conference.