Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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The Caribbean Beckons

It is that time of year again when colder temperatures start to set in and

Doug Cooke

your client’s minds wander to sunshine filled days, tranquil azure waters, sandy beaches and drinks with umbrellas. Life needs the Caribbean and the islands of the Caribbean are ready to deliver!


JAX FAX recently returned from the Annual CHTA Marketplace held this year in Puerto Rico and we are happy to report that Caribbean tourism is rebounding quickly. Almost all of the islands have done away with their Covid travel policies. The only exceptions to this are Bermuda, Turks and Caicos and Guyana which still require visitors to be vaccinated and Anguilla which requires a Covid test for non-vaccinated visitors. JAX FAX was very pleasantly surprised to see no signs of the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico just weeks before we arrived. San Juan was bustling with activity and old San Juan is as beautiful as ever. To be fair, it was the southwest side of the island that was hit worst by the storm and is still in recovery mode, but the rest of the tourist zones got away more or less unscathed. 


CHTA President Nicola Maden Greig reported that, as a region, tourism to the Caribbean from the U.S. is up 18% over pre-pandemic levels and has transitioned from recovery mode to growth mode. She announced that the CHTA will be launching a Certified Caribbean Expert Travel Advisor program in 2023. She also noted that according to a recent poll, the demand for the services of Travel Advisors has increased from 27% pre pandemic to 44% post pandemic. 


Island Updates

Antigua is our featured destination this month and the island is covered in detail in this issue. Here are some updates from other islands. 


Puerto Rico reported that the SJU airport was open within 24 hours of the hurricane and the cruise port was re-opened within a week. The tourist board has launched a new campaign, Live Borica, highlighting the culture of Puerto Rico. Also the first new hotel in 25 years, Resident Inn, has opened in Isla Verde.


Jamaica had its best summer ever with tourism up 105% over 2021 levels. There will be 8,000 new hotel rooms added in the next 5 years including 260 (eventually 800+) at the new Sandals Dunns River in 2023. The HardRock Resort in Rose Hall which recently broke ground will add an additional 2,000 rooms when it opens.  Also announced was a “new relationship with travel advisors.” 


Bonaire prides itself on sustainability with 80% of the island being protected, including marine areas. With only 22,000 residents and no hotel over 150 rooms, Bonaire is a unique Caribbean destination. Through its Bonaire Bond, visitors agree to practice sustainability. For each signed bond, either a plant or piece of coral is planted. Over 1,000 such plantings have taken place since April 2022.


In 2022, the USVIs have seen a 44% increase in tourism compared to 2019. Booking windows now average 60 to 90 days out. The cruise industry has returned after 18 months of zero arrivals. Capacity has been expanded in Crown Bay by 70% and St. Croix is tripling its cruise port capacity. For the charter market, additional moorings are being added to accommodate this growing segment of cruisers.


A new marketing campaign, Naturally in Rhythm, speaks to travelers seeking an authentic Caribbean experience comprising food, heritage, culture, and nature without having to leave U.S. soil.


In the Bahamas, and just in time for the spookiest time of the year, Graycliff Hotel recently launched Bahamas Ghost Tours, giving visitors a glimpse into the history of The Bahamas. Guests will be guided down West Hill Street passing haunted mansions, visit a spine-chilling museum, view historic churches, and peruse creepy cemeteries. This unique tour will excite visitors with riveting tales of pirates and shocking ghost legends. Other additions to Nassau include the Goldwynn Resort coming to Cable Beach winter of 2023, and a new  Entertainment Complex “License to Chill” Club Lounge at the Margaritaville Resort. At the airport, TSA precheck and global entry are now available. Sandals Royal Bahamas has recently completed a $55 million renovation.


The Cayman Islands have launched a new marketing campaign positioning the Caymans as a luxury lifestyle brand. It promotes nature as being part of the luxury travel experience offering one of a kind outdoor experiences. The campaign features 4 stunning videos: bioluminescence dress, starfish, fashion octopus and ibis chariot. This campaign will coincide with the launch of a new destination specialist and rewards programs for travel advisors.


The Turks and Caicos announced a number of infrastructure improvements including a new terminal at PLS in 2023, a $25 million investment in the cruise port in cooperation with Carnival Cruise Lines including a new floating dock, and a new South Cay cruise terminal. New or coming soon hotel additions to Provo include the Rock House, South Bank Resort, Andaz Residences and The Strand. It should be noted that the vax mandate currently in place expires at the end of 2022.


Dominica, not to be confused with the Dominica Republic, also known as the nature island recently was rated as the #1 Caribbean island by Travel and Leisure magazine. Why is it called the nature island? Consider that 80% of the island is rainforest, there are 30 miles of hiking trails, multiple waterfalls, a boiling lake and  your clients can snorkle through volcanic bubbles at aptly named champagne reef.  Also now available is the Waitukubuli Sea Trail which is a sea kayaking route runing from the north to the south of the island for multi-day kayak trips. Coulibri Ridge is a new sustainable, well-appointed, offgrid eco-resort located in Petit Coulibri and Tranquility Beach Resort – Curio – A Collection by Hilton will open in late 2023. A new airport in 2025 rounds out the current news here.


Barbados announced that it will have reached 80% of its pre-pandemic tourist levels by the ed of 2022. Annual events here include the Surf Pro in March at Bathsheba, crop over festival in August and the Ninja Throwdown located in St.John. The famous Sam Lord’s Castle Resort will reopen as a Wyndham Grand Resort with 422 rooms in early 2023. Indigo Barbados located on the west coast, with a total projected room count of 132 rooms,  broke ground in September and will be ready by late 2024. The famous Harrison’s Cave attraction has added a new zipline.


St. Lucia Tourism is putting an emphasis on community tourism which involves interactions with locals and authentic experiences. One example of this is the Kabawe Krawl which is a local cultural experience  involving a trail of local bars to meet and engage with the community. For adventure seekers St. Lucia offers nature hikes, ziplining, dive sites, a drive-in volcano, sulfur springs and the Triple Peak Challenge. The famous St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival takes place from May 5-15, 2023 and promises a yet to be announced all star lineup. St Lucia Carnival will be July 1-19. In hotel news Coconut Bay Resort, a premium all-inclusive property has just re-opened following a $6 million refurbishment which included enhancements to guest rooms, the CocoLand Kidz Klub, the Wedding Center, tennis and basketball courts, the main bar area, resort lobby, hallways, and more.


St Kitts will put its tourism focus in 2023 on sustainability, history, culture, the environment and the livelihood of it peoples. The new Venture Deeper campaign is designed to appeal to the discerning travelers who are eager to immerse themselves fully in a new and authentic experience,” said Stephany Bermudez, Vice President of Creative Services, Tambourine. “The campaign invites travelers to savor the days on the island more thoroughly by exploring and uncovering the full beauty St. Kitts has to offer.  A new ferry service will connect St. Kitts with Saba, Statia, and St. Martin for $125 r/t. A new incentive program for Travel Advisors offers incentives up to $200, a specialist training program and destination webinars. 


Grenada will have two new hotel join the island in 2023. The Beach House by Silversands will be a small, luxury boutique hotel on Portici beach featuring just 30 rooms either beachside or cliffside. Six Six Senses La Sagesse will also open in 2023 with 56 guest rooms, 7 one-bedroom villas and 5 two-bedroom villas. Located in St. David parish, about a 40 minute drive from the airport, it will be the first Six Senses branded resort in the Caribbean.


Connectivity between the three sister islands, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique is now more convenient with SVG Air offering daily flights of just 20 minutes between islands


for around $60. This makes day trips to Carriacou and Petite Martinique more practical than was previously possible on the 1.5 hour ferry option.


Also back this year are two carnivals – Carriacou’s carnival is Feb.15-22 and Grenada’s Spicemas takes place Aug.7-8 2023.


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