Hurricane Updates, Hotel News Dominate Caribbean Travel Marketplace

Luis Rivera-Marin, Puerto Rico's secretary of state, addresses media at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Assocation's (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace in San Juan, Puerto Rico. // Photo by Joe Pike

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Travel Agent recently covered the 2018 Caribbean Travel Marketplace and came back with a wealth of island updates following back-to-back hurricanes in September, as well as some hot hotel news that can lead to future Caribbean sales.

Here's what we found:

Puerto Rico Execs Give Status Report for Travelers

Carla Campos
Carla Campos, acting executive
director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Puerto Rico tourism officials provided an update on the status of the island during a press conference at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace in San Juan

Carla Campos, acting executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, and other Puerto Rico officials, including Secretary of State Luis Rivera-Marin, who was featured on the cover of our sister publication, Luxury Travel Advisor, back in 2012, gave attendees of the conference a full, up-to-date destination assessment following back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, this September.

Campos says 120 of the 150 hotels that reported damage are now reopened. She also added that 12,458 rooms are currently available in inventory with 2,670 rooms currently being “revamped.”

“By quarter three and quarter four we will be inaugurating some amazing renovations,” says Campos, noting that 25 percent more rooms, which will represent roughly 300 jobs, are currently in the pipeline.

One of those properties, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is currently slated to reopen October 1.

Also, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort has announced it will reopen on March 1 following its closure after Hurricane Maria. El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton partially reopened on December 4, but is only currently open for relief workers. It will fully reopen its doors on October 1 after closing in September. The 388-room property is undergoing a restoration of its guest rooms, oceanfront villas, public spaces, pools and outdoor landscaping. We were told the renovation represents an investment of $65 million.

Campos told media that 410,000 cruise passengers traveled through the San Juan port since October 7 and that 633,000 more passengers are expected by June 30. Campos also noted that 1.8 million cruise passengers, which will be a record breaking number of cruise passengers for Puerto Rico, are expected for the 2018-2019 cruise season. It will represent about $250 million. The previous record was set in 2013 when 1.5 million cruise passengers called in Puerto Rico. 

"We are projecting 1.8 million passengers this [cruise season], but we know that number will hit over two million," says Micelle Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA). "This year is looking to be the best year yet in Puerto Rico. We need to educate the cruise industry and show passengers all of Puerto Rico's products so they will say,  'Wow, Puerto Rico is amazing. Let's come back here and stay at a hotel.'"

Campos reports that there are now 110 daily flights to San Juan. She said 391,000 seats reopened in January. By July, she said Puerto Rico is expecting to receive another 81,000 seats. Campos said air capacity will be on par with 2017 numbers by May.

Campos says 22 attractions were open right after hurricane, and now 120 attractions are currently open. She also says 15 casinos, 13 golf courses and more than 4,000 restaurants are open. As far as one of Puerto Rico’s most popular attractions go, the El Yunque National Forest is expected to be completely open by the end of the year, with a small percentage of the forest already opened, says Campos.

Although it is unfortunately inevitable that Puerto Rico, like the majority of Caribbean islands, will see another hurricane in the future, Riviera-Marin says advisors and clients should at least know that Puerto Rico will be more prepared. 

“All the lessons learned will help us devise an emergency management plan,” says Rivera-Marin, “Instead of starting from zero, we will be starting from 40 or 50 as far as implementing recovery efforts [in the event of another hurricane].”

Grenada’s Hottest Hotel News

Patricia Maher, CEO of the
Grenada Tourism Authority

Carlson-Rezidor Hotel Group, parent company of the Radisson Hotel Corporation, announced that it is granting Issa Nicholas Limited the opportunity to be the first hotelier in the Caribbean to launch Radisson’s five-star brand, Radisson Blu, in Grenada.

The project will include the construction of multi-story residences, an additional swimming pool, spa facilities and family-friendly facilities, as well as a full refurbishment and expansion of all existing facilities. The launch is anticipated in 10 months, with the introduction of the residences and new spa facilities in 2020. The project is budgeted to cost roughly $50 million.

The all-inclusive Spice Island Beach Resort welcomed the new year with redesigned Anthurium Pool Suites, upgraded kitchen facilities and the addition of an open-air Yoga Pavilion overlooking Grand Anse Beach. Three certified yoga instructors, each trained in a different discipline, now offer private sessions in addition to scheduled classes focusing on Yin Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Gentle Flow, Restorative Styles, Therapeutic and Hatha Yoga.

True Blue Bay Boutique Resort has added a modern conference facility equipped to accommodate up to 150 guests with catering facilities, conference equipment and connectivity. Corporate retreats, conferences and other groups can be booked starting in May.

With a newly-built Yoga Pavilion by the beach, Green Roof Inn is ready to host yoga retreats for groups between six and 15 people. The property has also implemented a plan of action for sustainable tourism by supporting the local market, seeking out equipment and maintenance products regionally, recycling food from the kitchen to feed local animals and heating water with solar energy. The focus is to provide sustainable tourism options for travelers visiting the island of Carriacou.

The Latest on Robert De Niro’s Hotel Project in Barbuda 

Colin C. James, CEO of the
Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority

Colin C. James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA), told media at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace that Robert De Niro's planned hotel for Barbuda could be open as early as 2020. The hotel's development was set back by the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.

"Nothing has changed from his plan," says James. "And the fact that someone with a proven track record is willing to stay with it says a lot about his confidence in the destination and his willingness to make it work.”

Back in June of last year, James told Travel Agent the hotel was about 14 months away from opening, which means it was scheduled to open about a year from when the hurricanes hit. However, James told Travel Agent that only preparation work had begun on the new project.

Caribbean Tourism Reps Share 2017 Hotel Performances

Frank Comito, CEO and
director general for the CHTA

Travel Agent obtained details on the Caribbean region’s 2017 hotel performance, which was actually better than expected considering the back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes. 

But Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria were not the only issues affecting Caribbean tourism in 2017. Frank Comito, CEO and director general for the CHTA, says the three factors that affected performance last year were hurricanes; airlift (its availability and cost); and the perception of safety.

“Overall, 2017 was a mixed bag,” says Comito. “Stopover arrivals were up, but were below forecast. There was a 1.2 percent dip in occupancy, but imagine if there were no storms. Had you taken that out of the picture, we would have had a really good year as a region.”

Total revenues were up for 32 percent of hotels and down for 44 percent of hotels. Hotels rate were reduced by 35 percent of hotels while rates increased for 40 percent of hotels. Also, Comito mentioned that room occupancy was down for 45 percent of the hotels and up for 25 percent of hotels. Employment levels of hotels increased for 44 percent of properties while 20 percent of hotels reported a decline. Comito noted that RevPar was up sightly with a 0.7 percent slightly.

Grand Hyatt Hotel and Residences Planned for Grand Cayman

Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residences

Also at the event, Travel Agent learned of Hyatt Hotels Corporation’s plans for a Grand Hyatt Hotel and Residences on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. It is expected to open by the fourth quarter of 2020.

A Hyatt affiliate has entered into a franchise and related agreements with Pageant Beach Hotel Ltd. for the 351-room Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residences

The hotel will be managed by an affiliate of Aimbridge Hospitality, one of the largest independent hotel investment and management firms in North America and the Caribbean.

The new hotel will mark the Hyatt’s brand return to Grand Cayman, said David Tarr, senior vice president of development for Hyatt, in a written release.

Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residences will be located on a 7.1-acre site on Seven Mile Beach, considered one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. 

Situated along the southern end of West Bay Road, the hotel and residences will be located less than one mile away from George Town’s city center and only 10 minutes from Owen Roberts International Airport.
 
Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residences will offer 351 guest rooms, studio suites, and, one-, two-, and three-bedroom layouts along a seafront eco-walk that will celebrate the diverse ecology of Grand Cayman. Additional amenities include six distinct food and beverage venues, a 9,000-square-foot destination spa and fitness center, three swimming pools, retail shops, a kids club, and a screening room. 

The resort is planned to have 25,000 square feet of indoor meeting and event space, which will make it the largest function space in the Cayman Islands. 

An affiliate of Pageant Beach Hotel Ltd. will offer a rental program for the residences that will allow participating owners, when not occupying their residences, to have Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman rent their residences to hotel guests.
 
Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residences will mark the return of the Hyatt brand to Grand Cayman, an island with a number of natural attractions including the blow holes in the East End district, the Mastic Trail that runs north to south through the center of the island, the Hell limestone formations in the West Bay, and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

Water sports, such as scuba diving and snorkeling, are popular activities on Grand Cayman as the island is known for its coral reefs and underwater sea walls along with a number of famous shipwreck dive sites.

Three Airlines to Increase Service to the U.S. Virgin Islands

Beverly Nicholson-Doty, 
commissioner of tourism for the 
U.S. Virgin Islands

Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands, was in attendance at Caribbean Travel Marketplace promoting the destination's recent influx of flights.

Following meetings with airline partners over the past few months, Spirit Airlines will increase its Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas frequency to daily, effective Saturday, March 10, said Nicholson-Doty.

Due to strong bookings on the Atlanta-St. Thomas route, Delta will reinstate its daily service from New York to St. Thomas, effective May 24.

JetBlue Airways will operate a second daily flight from to San Juan to St. Thomas from February 15. The airline will provide daily options for travelers between Boston and St. Thomas (between February 15 to May 1) over San Juan.

The commissioner explained that while hotels and resorts rebuild and prepare to welcome stay-over visitors back to the territory, a strong demand for air seats is being generated by guests staying at inns, bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels; villas, apartments, condominiums and other rental properties; timeshares; and yachts, as well as professionals working in the construction industry, and Virgin Islanders traveling to and from the islands. The commissioner assured that efforts are continuing to increase airlift to both airports, on St. Croix and St. Thomas.

With the latest flight additions, the U.S. Virgin Islands is now being served by roughly 13,000 seats each week - 9,000 to St. Thomas and 4,000 to St. Croix (not including intra-island service).

2019 Caribbean Travel Marketplace to be Held in Jamaica

The 2018 Caribbean Travel Marketplace in San Juan, Puerto Rico attracted 102 buyer companies, representing 18 markets that serve the Caribbean region. 228 supplier companies were on hand. Next year’s event, to be held sometime in January, will be hosted in Jamaica

“We are very excited to have Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Jamaica next year,” says Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica. “We want Jamaica to be the center of thought and strategies for Caribbean tourism.”

Visit www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260

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