The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s annual Marketplace (Jan. 29-30), held this year in Montego Bay, Jamaica, provided an opportunity to catch up on what’s happening in the region. Following are a few more updates:
Sint Maarten and St. Martin
Valerie Damaseau, president of the (French) St. Martin Tourist Board, introduced a presentation on “the reality of the state of the industry on St. Martin” given by officials on both sides of the island. (Remember, as of July the two territories do joint marketing; see stmartinisland.org). Here are some takeaways:
- The flight schedule “is basically back to normal,” says Marla Chermont of the Sint Maarten Tourist Bureau. “We are now inhabiting part of the new terminal, and we hope to have the new airport completed in 2020. We hope to have pre-clearance by then, too.”
- Aida Wernum, representing French St. Martin, pointed out that the presence of celebrities—and yachts—is “a great sign of recovery.”
- Many hotels have reopened on both sides of the island. Their ranks include Sonesta Ocean Point, Sonesta Maho Bay (which will open later this month), Belmond La Samanna, and Grand Case Beach Club. Moreover, in December, Secrets will debut where the RIU stood, and a Planet Hollywood will follow on the Dutch side.
- Some 200 restaurants, including Auberge Gourmande, Bistrot Caraibes, the new Barranco, Rancho del Sol, Sol e Luna, and Sky’s the Limit have reopened. (This year’s Tuesday night street parties along Grand Case’s restaurant strip begin in February.)
- “Events, events, events. We’re two nations in one, so we do everything double,” said Chermont. FYI, the St. Maarten Carnival will be celebrating its 50th year April 20-May 7, and this year’s SMART conference is May 21-23 at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, which is slated to reopen this month.
“We’ve just had the best December ever in our history, and we’re encouraged by strong forward bookings,” said Hon. Cardigan Connor, parliamentary secretary of tourism, sports, youth, and culture. Here are some reasons why:
- As mentioned, the schedule of flights to SXM, St. Maarten’s airport and Anguilla’s primary gateway, is back to normal.
- Anguilla’s own airport is being improved. For example, the runway is being lengthened to accommodate Boeing 737’s, so, said Minister Connor, “we’re working hard to get direct flights from the the U.S.”
- A new ferry terminal will replace the old one at Blowing Point.
- The Anguilla Tourist Board’s website now features an interactive map, a custom itinerary builder, and other useful features.
- Anguilla’s current marketing slogan, “Beyond Extraordinary,” is now even more justified than ever. Despite the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Irma, Altamer Resort, Anguilla Great House, Ani Villas, Belmond Cap Juluca, Carimar Beach Club, Ce Blue Villa Resort, CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Anguilla, Frangipani Beach Resort, Long Bay Villas, Malliouhana, The Reef by Cuisinart, Shoal Bay Villas, Zemi Beach House Hotel & Spa are open and looking better than ever. And if Minister Connor had had enough time, he might have mentioned every hotel and villa on the island.
Antigua and Barbuda
After the record-breaking year of 2017, stated Colin C. James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, his country topped 2017 with 1,081,000 visitors in 2018 (U.S. visitors grew about 8 percent). He said a lot more, too, including this:
- A fifth berth in St. John, ready by mid-year, will accommodate Oasis-class cruise ships.
- Airlift to Antigua’s state-of-the-art airport has expanded, and this includes more seats on Delta’s weekly flights from JFK.
- Barbuda Belle, Barbuda Cottages, and Barbuda Ocean Club are now open on that hurricane-blasted island.
- Elegant Hotels’ Hodges Bay Resort & Spa opened in December, the family-friendly Royalton Antigua will open in June, adults-only Hammock Cove by Elite Islands Resorts will open in September with 40 one-bedroom villas (all with private plunge pools), and, all told, 15 properties are in various stages of construction. By 2021 they’ll double the current hotel room stock to about 5,000 keys. These include a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, a Waldorf Astoria-branded Hilton, Rosewood with Half Moon Bay Resorts, and a Best Western.
- A major summer campaign will feature romance, yachting, culture, history, and wellness travel. Also this summer, the launch of a new Restaurant Week.
- A new website launches this month with a live chat, a blog, an interactive map, a trip planner, and other useful features. Mr. James invites you to use it and enjoy it.
For more news from the CHTA Marketplace, check out these updates from Saint Lucia.