Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2016

Written by  Melanie Reffes

Much-awaited and well-attended, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) hosted the Caribbean Travel Marketplace this year at Atlantis, Paradise Island. Getting off to a rousing start, the opening ceremony didn’t disappoint with performances by The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band and the Colors Junkanoo Group, with keynotes by the Hon. Obie Wilchombe, minister of tourism for the Bahamas and Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas.

In addition to delegates from the US, Europe and Canada, suppliers and buyers from Latin America and emerging markets like Russia, Middle East and Scandinavia also did business on the trade show floor. “We look forward to introducing new tour operators to our region’s diverse hospitality product,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, newly-elected president of CHTA. Marketplace 2016 attracted 109 buyers from twenty-one countries. Twenty-eight countries were represented on the supplier side, comprised of 591 delegates and 243 companies. “I look forward to further expanding our marketing, advocacy, sustainability, educational and culinary efforts,“ Troubetzkoy added. “Our mutual aim must be to further elevate the quality and appeal of the Caribbean as the world’s most desired tourism destination.“
Noting the competitive nature of tourism, Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas is optimistic about the year ahead. “Today’s economic landscape continues to provide opportunities for each of the Caribbean’s tourism destinations, even as our governments seek to mitigate challenges such as infrastructure development, energy security, technological advancement, citizen security and climate change that impact tourism development.” Addressing delegates during the opening ceremony, the Prime Minister added, “Our region is full of tropical dream vacation destinations that persons around the world desire to visit at least once in a lifetime. There are enough island gems in our region for the traveler to collect one, two or three each year for decades to come. “

Better in The Bahamas
Atlantis, Paradise Island unveiled its inaugural travel agent loyalty and education program called Atlantis Ambassador. Points-based, the program offers perks and travel opportunities for agents selling the ginormous resort across the bridge from Nassau. “Becoming an Atlantis Ambassador will empower travel agents with the education and resources to close more sales and increase advocacy on behalf of our resort,“ said Karen Cruitt, vice president of leisure sales. “We look forward to continuing our existing relationships with travel agents as well as forming new connections through this result-driven incentive program.” Travel agents can register at using their IATA number. Based on factors like type of tower booked (Beach, Coral, or Royal Towers, The Reef Atlantis, The Cove Atlantis, or Harborside) and length of stay, rewards range from gift cards to complimentary room nights and FAM trips.
A big festival on the small island with miles of pink sandy beaches, Eleuthera...All that Jazz is music for a good cause with profits from ticket sales donated to the Haynes Library. From March 30 - April 3, the festival is a beacon for global artists like jazz singer Gabrielle Stravelli, adored for her unique take on American greats like Duke Ellington and Dolly Parton, and New York’s King Solomon Hicks packing his jazzy guitar sounds at the good time festival.

Irie in Jamaica
In Oracabessa, once the home of author Ian Fleming and where he penned fourteen James Bond novels, GoldenEye will debut twenty-six beach huts on April 1st. Owned by Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell, the huts are freestanding one and two-bedroom cottages with terraces, oversized louvered windows and high ceilings. The expansion also includes a seaside bar and rooftop terrace, pool and snorkeling cove. Nightly rates start at $400 during low season, $600  during high season.
In Rio Bueno, all-inclusive Melia Braco Village opened with 226 rooms and suites, six restaurants, three bars and two pools. This marks the Spanish chain’s first hotel in Jamaica and the second in the English-speaking Caribbean after Melia Nassau Beach.
In Ocho Rios, Moon Palace Jamaica Grande opened with 700 rooms; six bars; five restaurants; four pools and all-inclusive perks that include 24-hour room service, free WI-FI and gratis international phone calls.
In Montego Bay, all-inclusive 518-room Holiday is dishing up ‘Early Bird Savings‘ for spring break travel - $169 per person during the week of March 20-27 through April 3. Close to the international airport, the hotel on the beach also offers free weddings with booked stays and a 52-room section for adults-only. “Not only is it never too early to start planning a fun-filled escape to Jamaica, but for those already looking ahead, it’s never going to be more affordable to book your stay with us than right now,” said Nicola Madden-Greig, director of marketing and sales.“Sun and fun are givens every spring in Jamaica, but for 2016 it’s our savings that will truly make this Spring Break sweeter than ever.”
In Kingston, Courtyard by Marriott is the first hotel in the capital city to open in three decades. Business and leisure focused, the 129-room hotel is also the first LEED-certified building in Jamaica.

Say si to the Spanish Caribbean
In Fajardo, an hour east of the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, El Conquistador and Las Casitas Village, Waldorf Astoria Resorts; is scooping a new treat guaranteed to warm families of all ages. From the Spanish words ‘pira’ for pyramid and ‘aqua’ that means water, piragua is a shaved ice fruity refresher served by concierges at traditional wooden piragua pushcarts inside the Coqui Water Park. For adults-only, boozy piraguas like the rummy coconutty Coquito and the minty mojito take the hot edge off a sunny afternoon. For adults who crave a relaxing vacay, full moon yoga classes and massages are offered at 7pm and 8pm on the evening of every full moon in 2016. Full moon massages are 50-minutes and cost $180 per person.
Bring a mucho big appetite to Saborea Puerto Rico: A Culinary Extravaganza; the largest food festival on the island, April 7 - April 10 on El Escambrón, the closest public beach to Old San Juan. An edible feeding frenzy, the annual homage to island fare is a grand affair as buzz-worthy chefs serve samples of their ‘Nuevo criollo’ masterpieces, old timers ladle chunky stews into big bowls, demo kitchens invite wannabe chefs, and the crowds devour tastings and sips galore under the big white tent. New this year, Bubbles & Bites for the grownups and Taste of Saborea where twenty rock star chefs each prepare a feast for a ten -person table.
In Santo Domingo, Hard Rock International will build a second hotel and casino in the capital city of the Dominican Republic. In collaboration with the All-Inclusive Collection, a full-service hotel with 400 rooms and a casino will open next year. “We’ve had overwhelming success with our resort in Punta Cana, and are thrilled to continue our collaboration with Hard Rock International and introduce Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Santo Domingo,” said Frank Maduro, vice president of marketing, All Inclusive Collection. “The vibrant atmosphere of the destination, matched with our luxury offerings and unique amenities will make for an unforgettable and fun experience for all travelers.”

A-List islands
In Antigua, Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, launched the Castaway Experience that takes the spa experience outside the traditional spa walls with a private sailing excursion on a yacht and couples massages on secluded Maiden Island. A picnic for two and a champagne toast are added perks to those who buy the romantic package priced at $800.
In Anguilla, Zemi Beach House on Shoal Bay is open with 70 rooms and plans to add 129 by the end of the year. The first resort on the East End, the swishy resort is also the first new-build on the island in six years. Nightly rates start at $600 for ocean view rooms. Family-friendly, the resort tempts with two pools, tennis courts, spa, Kids Club, watersports and five restaurants and bars including the Rhum Room.
New at Cap Juluca on Maundays Bay, packages include the five-night Romantic Rendezvous with dinners on the beach, sunset cocktails and couples massages and the Epicurean Escapade aimed at foodies on vacation.
Also for foodies, if it swims, it may make it onto a plate at the Festival del Mar tempting taste buds over the Easter weekend March 26-27. Celebrating seafood of all shapes and sizes , all roads lead to the fishing village called Island Harbour on the eastern shore where lobster lovers will find plenty on the grill, fans of fried Johnny cakes line up for seconds, and the local vibe is all about friendly games of dominoes under the sea grape trees, crab races on the beach, colorful boats bobbing in the blue harbor, bands heating up the salty air and buttering into the catch of the day.

Getting there
Joining forces with the Immigration Department of Curacao, the Curacao Tourist Board launched an online version of the Embarkation and Disembarkation card (ED-card) enabling visitors to complete the entry forms prior to arrival and 24-hours prior to departing the island.
In Aruba, travel is also easier courtesy of a new on-line system. The online immigration application requires passport information and is processed within 48 hours. Upon arrival, visitors hand the confirmation to the immigration officer and exit the airport.

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