The recovery of a half dozen islands from 2017’s two Category 5 hurricanes has been an engrossing story—both tragic and upbeat—so we just updated the progress in the October issue of Recommend magazine. However, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s annual State of the Industry Conference, held during the first week of October, also offered updates on islands that suffered little or no hurricane damage last fall, so here’s the skinny on three more of them:
Tourism in Grenada is a great success story, with 10.55 percent growth in stayovers (and more than twice that in cruise arrivals!) through YTD August. A recently and purposefully sunken ship is attracting divers, the new Sun Hunters Bareback Jeep Tours is pleasing landlubbers, as are tours at the Tower and Palm Tree Gardens, which also offers flower arranging and teas.
- Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel, which is sporting an upgraded Beach Club Restaurant and Bar, is now a member of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program.
- Spice Island Beach Resort has received the AAA Five Diamond Award yet again, making it one of only seven other resorts in the Caribbean with that rating.
- The boutique Silversands Grenada will debut Dec. 1, offering a level of style and sophistication normally associated with Miami Beach.
- True Bay Resort will complete 21 new rooms by January. It’s also adding two lap-style swimming pools.
- The Kimpton Kawana Bay, with luxury studios and suites, will open on Grand Anse Beach in 2019.
- New residences, a spa, and other facilities now being built beside the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort will debut in 2020 as a Radisson Blu.
The number of stopover visitors to Jamaica rose almost 8 percent in 2017 for a total of 2,353,000, and for cruise ship passengers the growth topped 16 percent. “In 2018 we managed to continue growing,” said Donovan White, director of tourism. Stopover arrivals for the first six months increased 5.1 percent, and revenues grew 19 percent, from $2.6 billion to $3.1 billion. “We like to think that some of this went to travel advisors,” said White. The Kingston City Marathon (March 15-17) continues to grow, as does tourism in general to the capital, and Jamaica is hosting the next Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Marketplace (January). Visitjamaica.com has been revamped, as has social media marketing. Moreover, the Montego Bay airport is undergoing a substantial expansion, and airlift will increase this winter by 25 percent.
- The 325-suite, adults only Excellence Oyster Bay opened in Trelawney in June. Donovan added, “They may create a second property there of about 400 rooms.”
- Skylark Negril Beach Resort opened in July with Jamaica’s first outpost of Miss Lily’s restaurant.
- Azul Beach Resort Negril by Karisma recently added an adults-only section. Also see New Resorts within Resorts.
- The urbane, EP S will open in Montego Bay this quarter with 125 rooms.
- As it approaches its 65th anniversary, Half Moon is undergoing a $75 million overhaul of accommodations and public spaces. The overhaul will be completed in time for winter 2019. Half Moon will rename its villas Rose Hall Villas.
- The pipeline also includes a Hard Rock resort in Montego Bay, an H10, and three hotels that will be completed in 2019: a new Karisma resort in St. Ann, the Marriott AC hotel in Kingston, and the reopening of the Hilton.
“For the past two years we’ve been doing nothing but reinventing ourselves,” said Minister of Tourism Dominic Fedee, who is also the new chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. He explained that St. Lucia needed to focus more on experiential travel: “The traveler who came 10, 20 years ago—that traveler is gone.”
Fedee pointed to the Hotel Chocolate as a successful example of experiential travel, a place where visitors can have a “bean-to-bar experience, and you can participate in making your own bar of chocolate.” He also talked about the Village Tourism initiative that is helping eight authentic villages gain more visitors. “This is the single most important project for us,” he said. “A visitor to these villages gets to live like a local. Eat fresh fish, hear the town crier, visit a rum shop, go to open-air street parties… We’re helping turn these villages into accommodation centers as well. An entity named village tourism will be established by the end of November to enforce standards of safety, design, et cetera.” Yet one more reason why St. Lucia is undergoing a huge road-improvement project. The island has just launched a $170 million airport project, too, which will expand its capacity and feature a new state-of-the-art terminal.
“As for traditional accommodations, we have about 2,000 hotels rooms in the pipeline,” said Minister Fedee. When they’re completed, the island will have close to hotel 7,000 rooms. Some of the highlights he mentioned:
- AMResorts will soon begin contruction on a Zoetry and a Dreams at the underdeveloped south end of St. Lucia.
- Fairmont will open and manage a resort between Vieux Fort and Soufriere.
- Marriott is building a hotel where the cruise ships stop at Castries. (The cruise ship facilities in the south will be greatly expanded, too.)
- Sandals is building a fourth resort, a pull-out-all-the-stops property that Minister Fedee described as “a six-star product.”
For Part 1 of these updates from SOTIC, click here.