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Newsletter: Caribbean, 7/16/08

Grace Bay Club to Enter Latin America, Expand in Caribbean


The Grace Bay Club in Turks and Caicos is expected to make a major announcement tonight at a New York City event, but Travel Agent already got the scoop. The well-known, luxury brand will undergo a major expansion, including new properties in the Caribbean and its first-ever in Central America.

During a sit down Tuesday with Grace Bay Club representatives, Mark Durliat, CEO and developer for the Grace Bay Club, told Travel Agent the company will begin an expansion that will call for a maximum of 10 additional properties in the next 10 years. It will build two new properties adjacent to the existing Grace Bay Club, which is comprised of the Hotel at Grace Bay Club, the Villas at Grace Bay Club and the soon-to-open The Estate at Grace Bay Club. Those new properties will begin groundbreaking in about one year, with completion expected in about three years.

Furthermore, Grace Bay Club is in preliminary discussions with two spots in the Dominican Republic and three areas in Costa Rica. Durliat wouldn’t divulge exactly where the locations will be in those destinations. Nikheel Advani, managing director for the Grace Bay Club who was instrumental in seven successful Ritz-Carlton projects, told us that Grace Bay Club is also serious about purchasing an existing property in Costa Rica. If all goes well with that project, Durliat says perhaps Panama and other Latin America destinations, such as Argentina and Belize, could be targeted.

Grace Bay Club is also looking into expanding in the Caribbean outside of Turks and Caicos for the first time. He says Eastern Caribbean destinations such as Antigua, St. Lucia and Grenada are all being targeted. Although he wouldn’t tell us which one, he did confirm that negotiations are already under way with one of those three destinations.


Sandals Offers Solution to Rising Fuel Costs


It’s old news by now that rising fuel costs and a weak U.S economy is directly impacting Caribbean tourism, whether it be the expected suspension of American Airlines flights in September or a clients lack of disposable income. This why Travel Agent thinks Sandals Resorts' new "Fly Free" promotion is arguably the best deal of the year and, furthermore, something other hotels should look into undertaking.

Here’s the skinny on the deal: clients receive air credit of up to $550 on bookings made through August 31. As of Friday, Sandals is offering the air credit to all clients who book a minimum three-night stay by the date mentioned. According to Kevin Froemming, president of Unique Vacations Inc. (worldwide representatives for Sandals Resorts) the high cost of air travel has kept many travelers home and, in turn, has hurt travel agents.

“A staycation is not a vacation," Froemming said in a written release. "Our goal is to help agents help their clients get what they really want: time away to relax and recharge. Our ‘Fly Free’ promotion does that by offering real value at a time when every penny counts.”

Valid for travel between July 18 and December 20, 2009, the promotion also features 30 percent off regular rack rates for clients who book a six-night stay or longer, with rates starting as low as $198 per person, per night. Those who book a seven-night stay in select top-category suites, including the Swim Up Riversuites at Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa, can also receive up to two nights free, in addition to 30 percent off rack rates and the air credit.


American to Add Second Miami-St. Maarten Flight


With the anticipated suspension of a host of Caribbean flights by American Airlines come September, news of additional flights to any Caribbean destination is celebrated more than often during recent years. And this is why it didn’t take St. Maarten’s Commissioner of Tourism Roy Marlin long to publicly praise American Airlines on their announcement to add a second Miami-St. Maarten flight beginning in November.

The new American Airlines flight is scheduled to leave Miami International Airport at 5:15 p.m. arriving in St. Maarten at 9:10 p.m. The aircraft will depart the next morning at 9:10 a.m., arriving in Miami at 11:30 a.m.

In addition, the commissioner praised American for its decision to add a second New York-St. Maarten flight for the 2008-2009 tourism season. That flight, originating from JFK International Airport, will commence December 18 and is scheduled to run two times per week. It will increase to five times per week on January 6, 2009 for the remainder of the peak tourism season.

“On behalf of The Island Territory of St. Maarten, I am extremely grateful to American Airlines for their decision to increase capacity to our destination,” said Marlin in a written release. “Their judgment only confirms the fact that, in light of all the cutbacks taking place in the airline industry today, St. Maarten has an extremely viable and thriving tourism product.”


Bonaire’s “Paradise Rebates”

Bonaire recently launched a new program conceived by a Bonairean company and adopted by Bonaire’s tourism industry called Paradise Rebates, which allows Caribbean travelers to recoup additional airline baggage fees with rebates and coupons, which are accessible online at

“Bonaire has always taken the lead on protecting the environment, and now we are pleased to be taking the lead on providing our visitors with first-rate service,” said Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, director of tourism corporation bonaire in a written relase. “Our combined effort demonstrates the truth behind our tagline ‘Once a Visitor, Always a Friend,’ and reveals our willingness to do what it takes to keep our loyal visitors coming back.”

The following companies on Bonaire are currently offering coupons or rebates: Dive Friends Bonaire, Sun Rentals, Paradise Coffee, Buenos Aires Café, Golden Reef Inn, Coco Palm Garden/Casa Oleander, Mangrove Info Center, Bencho Car Rental, Caribbean Club Bonaire and AB Car Rental.

For more information and complete detail of each company’s offering, visit

CTDC Launches New Blog

The Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC), the marketing and business development unit owned equally by the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), has launched a new blog on the region’s official tourism website,, “in an effort to offer an insider’s perspective on the region and encourage a dialogue among site visitors,” according to a written release.

The first “Insider” to blog is Lorraine Headley, former director of tourism for Antigua and Barbuda. Her posts can be found in the “News and Features” section of the site or at

Caribbean Operator Extends Free Nights Deal


Island Destinations, which sells the Caribbean among other destinations, is extending its free nights promotion at a number of hotels and resorts featured in their Ultimate Exclusives brochure for the summer and fall 2008. Travel professionals booking through Island Destinations receive up to 16-percent commission on all bookings. On example such hotel that is includes is Cap Juluca, Anguilla, which is offering a seventh night freer from now through December 18.

Agents should contact Island Destinations at 877-903-2525.

Turks & Caicos Resort offers Suite Deals


The Sands at Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos is offering free nights in one of its suites. Guests receive a seventh night free on stays from November 1 to December 20 and ?a sixth-night free when booking a five-night stay or a sixth and seventh night free when booking a six-night stay. Applicable dates for this deal include are from now through October 31.


$200 Air Credit


To celebrate Travel Impressions new management of Delta Vacations, the tour operator is offering a $200 Instant Air Credit deal on all air-inclusive bookings of four nights or longer to Nassau/Paradise Island, the Bahamas. Reservations must be made between now and August 3 for travel between August 13 and December 17.

For participating hotels, visit

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