It may be tough to believe, but 2015 is already nearly half over. From the tug-of-war over Cuba travel restrictions to a host of new hotel developments, it's been a big six months for Caribbean travel. We've rounded up the most buzzworthy stories so far this year, based on interest from our readers.
Without a doubt Cuba has been the Caribbean story of the year, with a major change to travel restrictions to the country making waves back in January.
While the move followed a decision by the Obama administration to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba back in December 2014, early 2015 saw the release of new regulations that allowed Americans to visit the country without obtaining a special license from the government, provided their visit was for one of 12 predefined reasons.
The story didn't stop there, though: in early June, the House of Representatives voted against relaxing Cuba travel restrictions, highlighting Congressional opposition to warmer relations with the country. At the same time, tourism officials at Caribbean Week in New York warned that serious obstacles to Cuba travel were still to come.
Caribbean Week brought another bombshell in terms of hotel news: during an interview with Glen Beache, CEO of St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Authority, Travel Agent learned that a Four Seasons property could be one of three new hotels to break ground this year in the country. Each hotel would be around 200 rooms, and there would be one other four-star and one other three-star property.
Inside Look at Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, a Solid Mid-Level, All-Inclusive Hotel in St. Lucia (VIDEO)
While luxury hotels may get a great deal of attention, our early January trip to the affordable Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa drew a great deal of our readers' interest.
On the island of St. Lucia (recently building buzz thanks to an appearance on The Bachelor), the resort recently underwent a $5 million upgrade. While there we got a chance to check out the property's offerings for families, a unique strength in St. Lucia's tourism scene.
In other hotel news, AMResorts made a splash with its announcement of plans to open Dreams Dominicus La Romana in the Dominican Republic this October.
The 15th property for the Dreams Resorts & Spas brand, the family-friendly resort will have 478 rooms and suites, beach access, and a chance for guests to visit the government-protected natural reserve of Saona, 30 minutes away. The property will be in Bayahibe, 10 minutes from La Romana.
Karisma is also continuing to expand, as we learned back in March during an interview with Rafael Feliz, Jr., corporate brand manager for Premier Worldwide Marketing (the exclusive sales and marketing representatives for Karisma), who told us that the company is looking to build a second hotel in Negril, Jamaica. The move follows the opening of Azul Sensatori Jamaica in Negril, which took place last year.
The second Jamaica property is billed as a more luxurious, intimate hotel that would be situated next to Azul Sensatori Jamaica, Feliz Jr. said. As yet, there is no timetable in place for groundbreaking or opening.
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