|From left to right, Travel Agent's Joe Pike, Marie Walker of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority and legendary actor Robert De Niro pose for a selfie at the 21 Club in New York City during a dinner hosted by the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority that kicked off Caribbean Week New York.|
NEW YORK CITY, New York - Travel Agent recently wrapped up of our coverage of the annual Caribbean Week New York events and decided to highlight the most valuable news from the week.
Caribbean Week New York kicked off last Monday at the 21 Club, where legendary actor Robert De Niro joined a dinner hosted by the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority.
De Niro was part of a contingent that included Asot Michael, Antigua and Barbuda's minister of tourism, and Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.
So, how does the Taxi Driver actor fit in?
The Academy Award-winning actor and investor James Packer plan to turn Barbuba's K-Club hotel into a luxury resort that would represent a $250 million investment. The plans were officially approved in early March in a referendum by a vote of 206-175.
On the same day that Richard Sealy, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), told media and tourism officials gathered at the Wyndham New Yorker hotel for the closing press conference of Caribbean Week New York to curb their excitement about restriction-free U.S. travel to Cuba, House Republicans voted Thursday to maintain restrictions on Americans seeking to travel to Cuba.
|Richard Sealy (left), chairman of the CTO, and Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO, address attendees of the closing press conference for Caribbean Week New York|
Although Sealy says he was "looking forward to seeing Cuba fully integrated into this whole system of offering tourism services," he did want to remind those in attendance not to start planning their trips to Cuba anytime soon since there were still some major obstacles to overcome in fully lifting travel restrictions from the U.S.
"I think a little dose of reality needs to be realized here," says Sealy. "(President) Barack Obama did all he could do as far as restoring relations, but there is still this thing called Congress."
Sealy also reported that the Caribbean “bolted out of the gates” in 2015 with a six percent rise in tourist arrivals in the first quarter when compared to the same period last year.
There were nearly eight million visits to the region, which recorded the 17th straight quarter of growth, according to the chairman.
The Caribbean continues its rapid growth rate from 2014 when arrivals grew by 5.3 percent to 26.3 million visitors. Arrivals to the Caribbean were estimated to be 7.9 million in the first three months. This is the fifth consecutive year in which arrivals grew during the first quarter and the 17th quarter of continuous growth.
The United States market continues to be the Caribbean's most productive, said Sealy. Arrivals from the U.S. increased by 5.6 percent. The Canadian market grew an equally impressive 5.4 percent with Cuba and the Dominican Republic among the destinations recording higher levels of arrivals.
Earlier in the week, Travel Agent sat down with Glen Beache, CEO of St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Authority, who told us Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts could be one of three new hotels to break ground this year in the destination. This would be St. Vincent and The Grenadines' first Four Seasons hotel.
Beache told Travel Agent a Canadian developer is looking to break ground on three new hotels on St. Vincent and The Grenadines. According to Beache, there will be a three-star hotel, a four-star hotel and a "six-star" property all on the same grounds. Each hotel will be 200 rooms each, he says.
Although nothing has been signed yet, Beache told us the tourism authority is looking to add such brands as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Marriott International.
Beache told us the oft-delayed Argyle International Airport project, which would represent the destination's sixth airport and first international airport, could be completed by the end of the year. He told Travel Agent, however, that he expected the airport to be completed no later than March of next year if, in fact, the December deadline isn't met.
Travel Agent also sat down last week with Yolande Bain-Horsford, Grenada's minister of tourism and civil aviation, and Rudy W. Grant, CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, and learned of Grenada's bold plans to capitalize on medical tourism.
|Travel Agent's Joe Pike chats with Yolande Bain-Horsford, Grenada's minister of tourism and civil aviation.|
Bain-Horsford told us groundbreaking is expected to begin later this year on a new, roughly $1 billion health and wellness facility that will cater to travelers recovering from surgery or other medical procedures that require some bed rest.
"After the new Sandals (LaSource Grenada) opened up recently, we started to see a different clientele, a much younger clientele, coming to Grenada," says Bain-Horsford. "We think this facility is perfect for that type of clientele, that type of traveler."
Envisionation, a development company that specializes in sustainable solutions for Small Island States, has entered into an agreement with the Government to develop the destination’s first signature medical tourism facility, The Mount Hartman Medical Park.
The Government is collaborating by providing a 200-acre site that overlooks Secret Harbour. The site adjoins a sister development where luxury Setai & Aman boutique hotels are to be built. This site includes a bridge to an adjacent private island that offers some of the finest private residence sites in the entire Caribbean.
Ruthanne Terrero, vice president of content and editorial director of Questex Travel Group, this week received the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her editorial coverage of Jamaica and the Caribbean.
The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), in association with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, presented the award at the Caribbean Media Awards luncheon held in Manhattan in conjunction with Caribbean Week New York.