Now that another year of selling the Caribbean is in the books, Travel Agent looks ahead to 2014 and breaks down everything you need to keep on your radar when selling the region.
Although the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) was unable to provide us with 2014 projections by press time, perhaps you can make your own predictions based on the trends of the last two years. All of the following data was provided to us by the CTO. A total of 15.6 million tourists visited the Caribbean between January and July this year. Those numbers represent no change when compared to the same period in 2012; but actual tallies still remain above pre-crisis levels. The best monthly performances in 2013 were in March and July reflecting the celebration of Easter and summer Carnival Season respectively. Also, 13.4 million passengers cruised through the Caribbean up to the end of July.
What’s New in 2014
Perhaps the biggest news of 2014 will involve Baha Mar, the $3.5 billion mega-resort in Nassau, The Bahamas, that will hopefully open its doors in about a year from now.
Two-thirds of the construction work has already been completed, with the project expected to be finished by December 2014. Agents will be able to book the property about seven months prior to the official opening. Baha Mar will offer 2,200 hotel rooms spread across four major hotel brands, including Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Mondrian, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, as well as the resort’s new, dazzling centerpiece, The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel. Baha Mar’s 100,000-square-foot casino promises to be one of the most exciting gaming experiences in North America.
The beachfront Ritz-Carlton, Aruba resort opened on November 2. Amenities include four restaurants, a 13-treatment room Ritz-Carlton Spa, two swimming pools, a 24-hour casino and one of the largest meeting facilities in Aruba.
As far as all-inclusives go, the buzz heading into 2014 will be about the new Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa. The best rooms at the resort will be the Skypool Suites, Millionaire Suites and Rondoval Suites. For the best views, however, book your clients into the Skypool Suites, which give outstanding views of the Caribbean Sea and come with large balconies, lounge chairs, dining tables and soaking tubs. Private butler service is available in 75 Butler Suites, which are found among the Millionaire, Rondoval and Skypool Suites.
It is only minutes away from Maurice Bishop International Airport. Clients receive chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce and Mercedes 500 series airport transfers.
Premium Room at the new Sandals LaSource Grenada Resorts & Spa.
Other big all-inclusive news in 2014 will center on phase two plans for the ongoing Hedonism II makeover in Jamaica. This phase is set to start in May 2014 when another 100 rooms will be fully renovated. Hedonism II has been discretely making upgrades to its public areas. To date it has updated its dining room, added new chaise lounges to the pool and beach areas, and installed a wine bar.
Rooms at the iconic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in Puerto Rico will be ready by early 2014, says José M. Suárez, president of International Hospitality Enterprises, which represents such familiar hotels in Puerto Rico as La Concha: A Renaissance Resort and the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. In June, Suárez told Travel Agent that financial issues were at the heart of the delays for the unveiling of the new rooms. They were originally slated to open earlier this year, but plans stalled when International Hospitality Enterprises’ bank in Puerto Rico closed.
By the end of 2014, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will have a new international airport to go along with several new hotel openings and enticing offerings that should open the destination to a broader spectrum of clients. The highly anticipated, $240 million Argyle International Airport is being built on about 175 acres of land, with a paved runway 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. It is designed to accommodate jets as large as the Boeing 747-400s. The terminal building, with about 171,000 square feet of floor space, is designed to handle about 1.5 million passengers per year, more than five times the capacity of the current airport.
Expect St. Croix, U.S.V.I., which experienced a romance tourism increase as a result of a February airing of ABC’s hit romance reality series, The Bachelor, to carry this momentum over to 2014. The episode, filmed entirely on the island, featured a special “group date” and three “one-on-one dates” with the historic resort, The Buccaneer, as backdrop. Earlier this year, the hotel unveiled the Beach House on Whistle Point as an additional accommodation option suitable for wedding parties and family reunions. St. Croix is also enjoying an uptick in cruise ship calls.
It’s not just the resorts that make Samana in the Dominican Republic poised to emerge big time. The island is also close to the popular Puerto Plata, and JetBlue Airways launched direct flights from JFK in New York to the four-year-old Juan Bosch Airport in Samana one year ago. The island has already drawn wealthy Dominicans, Europeans and Canadians.
Curacao is the latest Caribbean island to feel the positive ramifications of being featured on The Bachelorette as scores and scores of U.S. honeymooners have been making their way there in 2013. Among the newer hotels ready to welcome them is the year-old Sunscape Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino. Expect Curacao’s momentum to continue in 2014.
For the winter season, American Airlines has added a second weekly flight to Martinique from Miami on Wednesdays. Flights will run through March 26, 2014.
On December 5, JetBlue Airways launched daily nonstop service from both New York City and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. JetBlue also announced plans to begin once-daily nonstop service to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS), from New York/JFK on February 24 and from Fort Lauderdale beginning May 1.