Pointed southeast of the Bahamas and 575 miles south of Miami, Turks and Caicos Islands are a sunny collection of seven main islands and forty smaller isles and uninhabited cays. A British Overseas Territory, the island chain is easy to get to with plenty of flights from the US and a breeze to sell for travel agents with clients looking for top-shelf resorts, fine dining, funky beach bars, historic sites like the former cotton plantation called Cheshire Hall, superb diving, temps in the eighties and the island’s crowning glory; miles of white sandy beaches that front the sea blindingly bluer than a Tiffany gift box.
Brand new on the picture-perfect island across the sea from St. Martin, The Reef sits pretty on the less-trodden beach fronting Merrywing Bay. A short golf cart ride away from its bigger sister, CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa; the seaside resort is also a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Stylishly designed with 80 suites in four beachfront buildings, the beauty on the Bay also comes with two tennis courts and a pair of restaurants: The Yacht Club and Breezes on the beach.
The late afternoon sun casts long shadows on the arches and balconies of Havana’s Spanish Colonial buildings. As I ride between them and the aqua-colored sea in a bright red, 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, a breeze brushes my face. Nothing has changed much since the late 1950s. Sure, there are a couple of modern buildings and monuments but that’s about it. I feel like I am in a time warp.
The agenda was ambitious at the annual State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) held this year at the Hilton Barbados Resort. The pre-eminent tourism gathering in the region, the conference was organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) in collaboration with Barbados’ Ministry of Tourism and International Transport and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI). With the theme Honouring Our Legacy, Defining Our Future, the week-long event was action-central for tourism influencers from hotel and airline executives and resort owners to directors of tourism, government officials and travel agents.
Addressing a record 520 delegates, Richard Sealy, minister of tourism for Barbados, reported an impressive spike in visitors to the Caribbean. He said, “The region recorded 28.7 million arrivals in 2015, which means we are on target to reach 30 million which is a very healthy state of affairs.” Echoing his optimism, Hugh Riley, secretary general for the CTO added, “The Caribbean is on track for another banner year. Our task now is to ensure all key metrics keep pace with arrivals.” SOTIC 2017 will take place next fall in Grenada. www.onecaribbean.org
It’s easy like Sunday morning at the Riu Republica, fronting the beach called Playa Arena Gorda in Punta Cana. East of the gigantic Hard Rock Hotel, the new all-inclusive is one of eight Riu Resorts in the Dominican Republic; 6 in Punta Cana and 2 in Puerto Plata. With an investment of $140 million, the sunny playground is also the first adults-only in the Riu Classic category, joining the family-friendly Riu Naiboa and Riu Bamboo.
With election fever at high pitch and candidates crisscrossing the country wooing voters to their side of the aisle. The eyes of the world are on the 2016 race to the White House. Front page news and fodder for water cooler conversation in all fifty states. Our political history has a Caribbean connection. From a hit show on Broadway and a villa owned by a billionaire candiate to a plantation house once slept in by the first president.
The Caribbean is one of the most coveted cruising destinations in the world, with millions of vacationers sailing into the wild blue wonder for an adventure on the high seas. Big boats mean big business with some cruise ships wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 747, and suites larger than many apartments in Manhattan. Rivaling amenities at a six-star resort, perks run the gamut from wine bars and chocolate buffets to casinos and rock-climbing walls. Yes, a cruise liner may be your client’s fantasy home away from home but the authentic Caribbean experience is in the towns where the ships drop anchor.
The largest trade show in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, DATE (Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange) was held this year in Punta Cana. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Meliá Hotel chain with properties in the DR including the host resort Paradisus Palma Real, the convention center was action-central for buyers and sellers. “It is more than an honor for us to welcome top tour operators and industry marketers worldwide,“ said Conrad Bergwerf, General Director of Paradisus Resorts.
A perennial favorite for destination weddings, selling romance in the Caribbean is a breeze. With weddings the biggest ticket in June, couples are looking for creative ways to keep the spark alive while travel agents are looking to say “I Do” to their share of a lucrative market.
Cuba - land of Castro and 55 years of communist rule. Cuba conjures up images of vintage US cars, cigars, rum and Ricky Ricardo. Long a forbidden fruit to the US traveler, things are changing quickly.
Rules for travel by US citizens to Cuba have been relaxed and it is projected that scheduled air service from the US to Cuba will resume in November of this year.