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Welcome Back, Caribbean WeekJuly 1, 2009 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
More Grenada flights will be added by American Airlines in early November
What’s not to love about Caribbean Week in New York city for Travel Agent magazine? We usually have to hop on a few planes for a good Caribbean trade show. But last month, we took a $6 cab ride from the office to The New Yorker Hotel to get the scoop on the latest Caribbean happenings.
The show returned to the Big Apple after a one-year hiatus. Last year, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) had opted to substitute the show with the Annual Caribbean Tourism Summit (ACTS) in Washington, D.C. This year, they split the two shows. ACTS was still held but mostly involved closed-session meetings with tourism and government officials while Caribbean Week in New York was where reporters were able to see what was going on.
Here’s some of the biggest news from the event.
Sky’s the Limit
Yes, there actually are new flights coming to the Caribbean. While Air Jamaica has begun flights out of Miami since June 26, Grenada will start American Airlines flights from Miami beginning in early November. American will also fly out of Miami 10 times a week to St. Croix beginning mid-November. The U.S. Virgin Islands will get Delta Airlines flights to St. Thomas out of Atlanta four times a week starting in mid-December. Delta will also bump up its flights from New York to St. Thomas to seven times a week, starting in mid-November.
Travelers to St. Kitts from the U.S. have reportedly declined 15 percent
Flat Is the New Up
It may be the latest cliché to hit the tourism industry but it’s no lie when tourism officials say, “Flat is the new up.” The problem is, flat is hard to come by unless you’re the lucky ones like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. We heard St. Lucia was on target for a nasty 20 percent decrease in arrivals, although it’s not officially confirmed. There are also reports that St. Kitts dropped roughly 15 percent in U.S. arrivals and the U.S. Virgin Islands took an 11 percent drop. Now, we apologize for singling out these destinations but also commend them for being the only ones to share honest numbers with us—as we suspect many islands may be fudging the real digits a tad.
St. Kitts’ Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture Richard “Ricky” O. Skerritt told us that St. Kitts is taking it on the chin, and has no idea how to combat the dropping figures other than by keeping the deals flowing. Meanwhile, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ drop can be attributed to an overall decline in cruises this year since it is perhaps the number-one cruise destination of all the Caribbean.
Okay, there was a lot of hotel news, but the biggest may be the official launch of the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, Jamaica, on June 14. Kingston’s newest hotel fills a need in the island’s capital and thriving cultural center for a hotel with great dining and contemporary amenities. Heading up The Crissa Group and the Spanish Court Hotel development is lawyer and “village architect” Christopher Issa. He recognized the potential in the location and architecture of the former Spanish Court Shopping Centre, spending $12 million to acquire the property and, along with architect Oscar Garcia, transformed the structure into a 107-room boutique hotel. Summer Saver rates start at $145 from now through August 31. Rates include continental breakfast and Internet access. For reservations call 876-926-0000 or visit www.spanishcourthotel.com.
At the closing press conference hosted by John McGinley, chairman of the CTO council of ministers and tourism minister of Antigua & Barbuda, and Hugh Riley, the CTO’s interim secretary general, reporters got a taste of what happened behind those closed-door sessions at ACTS. Most newsworthy was the Caribbean Hotel Association and the CTO’s collaborative plan to form a regional marketing fund. We first told you about this during our coverage of ACTS last year, but it looks as though progress is finally being made. Riley said an amount was expected to be voted on and passed right around now, noting that $60 million was the desired figure to be raised by all CTO members. The plan for the fund calls for raising money to advertise and market the Caribbean as a region as opposed to just promoting the islands separately.
Pat Myself on the Back
I was honored on the final day of Caribbean Week by the Jamaica Tourist Board, in association with the CTO, with the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism. The award is given annually to an editor or journalist who has made a major contribution in providing the trade and/or consumer with information on the developments in the Caribbean through the media.
The award was first introduced in 1987 as a tribute to Marcia Vickery-Wallace, a former editor of Brides magazine. Horace Sutton was the first recipient and other winners include Maggie Zellers, Kay Showker, Edith Baxter, Ian Keown, Barbara Gilliam and Nancy Novogrod, among many other distinguished writers. I’m honored to join that elite group.
Despite a fall in tourist numbers,American Airlines will begin flights to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, in mid-November