WHAT'S NEW

The hurricane season of 2004 wrought havoc on several islands. Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne tore through the Caribbean, directly affecting Grenada, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Hispaniola, and Grand Bahama.

Destruction in some regions was limited to landscaping and cosmetic damage. Hardest-hit was Grenada, where 70 percent of the hotel stock was damaged. Much of the hotel inventory is back in business, and the island expects to return to pre-hurricane levels by the end of the year. Grand Cayman is also still recovering, with some properties undergoing the final stages of renovation.

In spite of a turbulent 2004, the Caribbean continues to see growth, with increased airlift, new meeting facilities, and new and expanded hotels. One of the fastest developing islands is Puerto Rico. By the end of the year, the island will offer 16,000 hotel rooms and 1.2 million square feet of meeting space. More than $228 million is being spent in hotel expansion and renovation. At Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, a 125-room airport hotel with six meeting rooms, a new air terminal, new landing facilities, and other airport expansions are all part of a $219 million initiative that began in 2003 and is on track for completion by 2007.

Other Spanish-speaking destinations are also seeing record growth. Both the Dominican Republic and the Mexican Caribbean, especially the Riviera Maya, are home to many new hotels and construction projects.

Jamaica is also seeing growth. More than 12,000 new hotel rooms are planned or under construction, and a new convention center has been announced for Montego Bay.

FACILITIES UPDATE

ARUBA

  • ARUBA MARRIOTT RESORT & STELLARIS CASINO has expanded its 8,434-square-foot ballroom, which is available for groups of up to 800 for receptions. The 413-room resort offers approximately 11,700 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 481-room WYNDHAM ARUBA RESORT, SPA & CASINO has completed a $3.5 million renovation and expansion of its meeting space. The resort added a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and renovated the pre-function area. The resort has 24,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 358-room RADISSON ARUBA RESORT & CASINO is the first Aruban resort to offer free in-room high-speed Internet access. Wireless access is also available in meeting rooms, the lobby, and designated public areas, including the beach. The resort offers more than 15,000 square feet of indoor meeting space.



BAHAMAS

  • ATLANTIS, Paradise Island is undergoing a $1 billion expansion to be completed by the end of 2006. The hotel, presently 2,300 rooms, will add a 600-room, luxury all-suite hotel and a 400-unit condo-hotel. Approximately 100,000 square feet will be added to ATLANTIS CONVENTION CENTER, nearly doubling capacity. The project includes a new exhibit hall and a 50,000-square-foot grand ballroom.

  • The 350-room, all-inclusive RIU PARADISE ISLAND opened in December on Paradise Beach. The resort offers three conference rooms with a maximum capacity of 650 attendees.

  • On Grand Bahama, THE WESTIN AND SHERATON AT OUR LUCAYA BEACH & GOLF RESORT will open 70 to 80 new suites late this year. The resort has added a Jim McLean Golf School and an Ace Tennis Center. The resort offers 90,000 square feet of meeting space.



BARBADOS

  • The $110 million HILTON BARBADOS is scheduled to open this month. Located five minutes from Bridgetown, the 350-room resort includes 77 executive-floor rooms and 33 luxury suites. The resort offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,200-square-foot grand ballroom.



BERMUDA

  • The 84-cabana 9 BEACHES has opened on 18 acres that are lined with nine beaches. Each cabana stands on stilts; some are over the water and have plexiglass floor panels. Wi-Fi service is available propertywide.

  • The 400-room SONESTA BEACH RESORT BERMUDA is now the 247-room WYNDHAM BERMUDA RESORT AND SPA. The resort offers 12,000 square feet of renovated meeting space. Over the next two years, the resort will add 38 new one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites.



CAYMAN ISLANDS

  • The $400 million RITZ-CARLTON, GRAND CAYMAN is scheduled to open in October with 365 rooms and suites and 69 private condominiums. The resort will include a nine-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman, a tennis center, an Ambassadors of the Environment children's program, a spa, and 13,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.

  • THE HYATT REGENCY GRAND CAYMAN remains partially closed after hurricane damage. The beachside suites are open, but the main resort is undergoing a complete renovation. Reopening is scheduled for February 2006.

  • GRAND CAYMAN MARRIOTT BEACH RESORT is undergoing a $15 million renovation of all 307 guest rooms and suites, the lobby, restaurant and meeting facilities, fitness room, and business center. The project is expected to be complete by August 1.

  • The 340-room WESTIN CASUARINA RESORT & SPA GRAND CAYMAN reopened in November after a hurricane-related closure. Additions include high-speed Internet access and a business center.



DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

  • In Puerto Plata, the CASA COLONIAL BEACH & SPA opened in November. The all-suite hotel, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, offers 50 suites, each with high-speed Internet access. The resort includes a spa, restaurant, and private transfers to the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course, Playa Dorada. The resort's boardroom seats 35 attendees theater-style.

  • The 228-room HILTON SANTO DOMINGO was scheduled to open in April. The hotel anchors a mixed-use facility with shopping, restaurants, and the city's largest casino. Adjoining a meeting complex with two boardrooms and seven meeting rooms are a 7,203-square-foot ballroom, a junior ballroom, and a foyer.

  • In Punta Cana, the 334-suite OCEAN SAND GOLF AND BEACH RESORT and the 374-suite OCEAN BLUE GOLF AND BEACH RESORT opened in January. The all-inclusive properties are near the White Sands Golf Course. The properties offer four meeting rooms, the largest of which can host up to 300 attendees theater-style.

  • SUNSCAPE THE BEACH PUNTA CANA has opened with 616 rooms, including 96 suites and eight two-bedroom oceanfront suites. The spa has 10 massage rooms and outdoor massage palapas.



JAMAICA

  • In February, the 360-room SANDALS WHITEHOUSE EUROPEAN VILLAGE & SPA opened on the south coast. The all-inclusive property includes 54 suites with butler service in top categories. The resort is built around the concept of three European villages and has six restaurants, four pools, tennis, a fitness center, and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a three-level amphitheater.

  • SANDALS OCHO RIOS AND GRANDE SPORT VILLA GOLF RESORT AND SPA BY BEACHES have been combined to form the 529-room Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach and Villa Resort. The resort has undergone a $14 million refurbishment and added a 14,000-square-foot pool.

  • The 250-room SANDALS DUNN'S RIVER GOLF RESORT & SPA is undergoing a $10 million renovation that includes the lobby, guest rooms, meeting space, a spa, and butler service in top category suites. The resort offers indoor meeting space for 100 attendees.

  • The 850-room, all-inclusive RIU PALACE OCHO RIOS is under construction and scheduled to open in November.

  • In Ocho Rios, the RENAISSANCE GRANDE was acquired by the Sunset Resort group and reopened in March as the 730-room SUNSET JAMAICA GRANDE RESORT. The hotel includes more than 32,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • IBEROSTAR has broken ground on the first of three new resorts near Montego Bay that will offer 950 guest rooms.

  • HALF MOON MONTEGO BAY has finished an $8 million refurbishment, demolishing three blocks of beachfront suites to make room for 68 beachfront rooms and suites. The ballroom and conference center, which includes 12,000 square feet of meeting space and 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, as well as the golf course, have also been refurbished.



MEXICO

  • Scheduled to open late this year, THE FAIRMONT MAYAKOBA, RIVIERA MAYA, will be part of the Mayakoba master plan resort community. The 401-room luxury resort will have priority access to a Greg Norman — designed 18-hole championship golf course, one of two courses at the development. Other resort features include a 16,000-square-foot spa, three restaurants, a health club, tennis courts, and 10,000-square-foot pool.

  • On the Riviera Maya, IBEROSTAR PARAISO MAYA is opening a P.B. Dye — designed golf course in June. The 432-suite resort opened in December. The complex includes the 15,683-square-foot Iberostar Playa Paraiso Conference Center for up to 1,000 guests.

  • On the Riviera Maya, ESENCIA has opened on Playa Xpu-Ha. The 50-acre boutique resort is centered around a nine-suite greathouse. Twenty suites and four-bedroom cottages are also available. Cottages have pools, media rooms, gourmet kitchens, and a living room.

  • The 300-room SUNSCAPE PUERTO AVENTURAS RIVIERA MAYA opened in December after a $4 million renovation. The resort, 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, features 27 holes of golf and a spa.



PUERTO RICO

  • The PUERTO RICO CONVENTION CENTER will open late this year as the region's largest convention center. The facility will include a 152,700-square-foot exhibition hall, 12 meeting rooms, and the Caribbean's largest ballroom.

  • The 222-room HOLIDAY INN SAN JUAN opened in December and includes two ballrooms plus eight meeting rooms with approximately 15,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The first phase of the CARIBE HILTON'S PASEO CARIBE, a development including Condado Lagoon Villas, was completed in January and consists of 168 villas. Phase two will feature 96 additional villas, making the Caribe Hilton the island's largest hotel property, with a total of 910 guest rooms by the end of this year.

  • The PONCE HILTON'S $152 million COSTA CARIBE RESORT project is near completion; the project adds a 100-room Executive Tower, a 27-hole championship golf course, a 32,000-square-foot Club House, and more.

  • The 300-room CONDADO VANDERBILT HOTEL will open midyear with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, a spa, and two oceanfront pools.

  • The 474-room RENAISSANCE LA CONCHA HOTEL & CASINO will open by the end of this year. The hotel will have 15,000 square feet of meeting space, a 15,000-square-foot casino, three restaurants, a pool, and a beachfront fitness center.

  • The COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT ISLA VERDE BEACH RESORT is adding 110 rooms to its 300-room inventory, and $60 million is slated for the development of an adjacent 196-suite MARRIOTT RESIDENCE INN.

  • A $37-million expansion has been completed at WYNDHAM EL CONQUISTADOR RESORT & GOLDEN DOOR SPA. The project added 67 luxury villas to the existing 90 as well as two swimming pools.

  • After a $7 million upgrade at the 240-room WYNDHAM OLD SAN JUAN, the property will be reflagged as a Sheraton.

  • The RITZ-CARLTON, SAN JUAN HOTEL, SPA & CASINO completed phase one of a three-year, $13 million renovation of its 416 guest rooms and public areas. The hotel has 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • Under the Sheraton flag, STARWOOD will operate a new $175 million convention center hotel. Construction is scheduled to be done by mid-2007. The hotel will have a minimum of 500 rooms.



ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES

  • The 156-room RAFFLES RESORT CANOUAN ISLAND, THE GRENADINES, formerly CARENAGE BAY BEACH AND GOLF RESORT, opened in November, with the new Jim Fazio-designed Trump International Golf course. Meeting space includes a boardroom and three conference rooms totaling 1,480 square feet. Guests arrive from the airport via private catamaran. The resort includes a 10,000-square-foot spa and a European-style casino.

  • After damage from Hurricane Ivan, PETIT ST. VINCENT, a 113-acre private island resort, has upgraded all 22 cottages.



U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • The 282-room and suite, 67-villa WESTIN RESORT ST. JOHN has undergone a $2 million renovation of its meeting space. The resort's conference center offers seven meeting rooms, the largest capable of hosting 300 people.



ASK THE CVB

ARUBA

ARUBA CONVENTION BUREAU
(800) TO-ARUBA; (954) 767-3395
www.aruba.com
Departure Tax: $37 (included in ticket)
Hotel Tax: 18%

BAHAMAS

BAHAMAS MINISTRY OF TOURISM
(800) 823-3136; (212) 758-2777
www.bahamas.com
Departure Tax: $15 in Nassau, $18 in
Freeport (both included in ticket)
Hotel Tax: 6% room tax

BARBADOS

BARBADOS TOURISM AUTHORITY
(800) 221-9831; (212) 986-6516;
www.barbados.org
Departure Tax: $13
Hotel Tax: 7.5% room tax

BERMUDA

BERMUDA DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
(800) 223-6106, ext. 213
www.bermudatourism.com
Departure Tax: $20 (included in ticket)
Hotel Tax: 7.25% room tax, 10% — 15% service charge

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS TOURIST BOARD
(800) 835-8530; (213) 736-893
www.bvitourism.com
Departure Tax: $20 ($5 by sea)
Hotel Tax: 7% (many hotels also charge a 10% service charge on room)

CANCUN

CANCUN TOURIST BOARD
Walter Holtsmaster, Managing Director International Destinations Inc.
(800) 833-5254; (202) 797-1222
www.meetingsworldwide.com
Departure Tax: $20 (included in ticket)
Hotel Tax: 12%; 15% service charge

CAYMAN ISLANDS

CAYMAN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
(345) 949-0623; (305) 599-9033
www.caymanislands.ky
Departure Tax: $25
Hotel Tax: 10% room tax, 5%-10% room service charge

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TOURIST BOARD
(888) 374-6361; (212) 588-1012
www.dominicana.com.do
Departure Tax: $20 plus $10 tourist card upon entry
Hotel Tax: 12% plus 10% service charge

JAMAICA

JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD
(800) 233-4JTB; (305) 665-0557
www.visitjamaica.com
Departure Tax: about $25
General Consumption Tax (in lieu of room tax): 15%

PUERTO RICO

PUERTO RICO TOURISM CO.
(800) 223-6530

PUERTO RICO CONVENTION BUREAU
(800) 875-4765; (202) 457-9262
www.meetpuertorico.com
Departure Tax: none
Hotel Tax: 7% (country inns), 9% (hotels without casinos), 11% (hotels with casinos) plus 15% service charge

ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
(784) 457-1502; www.svgtourism.com
Departure Tax: $13, Hotel Tax: 7%

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO TOURISM
(868) 675-7034; www.visitTNT.com
Departure Tax: about US$17
Hotel Tax: 10% room tax plus 15% VAT

US VIRGIN ISLANDS

USVI DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
(800) 372-USVI; (340) 774-8784
www.usvitourism.vi
Departure Tax: $0, Hotel Tax: 8%

PHANTOM PLANNER

  • Bermuda shorts are perfectly acceptable business wear on Bermuda. Shorts fall two inches above the knee, are worn with “Bermuda hose” (black or navy knee socks), loafers, a white or blue short-sleeved shirt, a tie, and a navy blazer.

  • Many of the Caribbean's smaller resorts, including private island getaways, are available for group takeovers, especially during low season. Besides the opportunity for more teambuilding and security, takeovers permit groups to avoid general rules involving clientele (no guests under 18, couples only, etc.) and to meet in public areas.

  • A few islands, such as Trinidad and Tobago, now require passports of U.S. travelers; most islands grant entry with an original or certified birth certificate and official ID. However, by 2008 all U.S. travelers will need to show passports when they return from the Caribbean.

  • Bermuda does not permit visitors to rent cars. You can opt for taxi transfers and minibuses for groups — and scooters are popular with individual explorers.



Special Venues

  • Groups of up to 1,500 can be accommodated at St. THOMAS' CORAL WORLD OCEAN PARK. Indoor and outdoor venues range from an undersea observatory to an 80,000-gallon Caribbean reef encounter. (888) 695-2073 or (340) 775-1555; www.coralworldvi.com

  • The home of James Bond creator Ian Fleming is available for group functions east of OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA. GOLDENEYE'S IAN FLEMING VILLA can be rented for functions for groups of up to 150 persons. The villa, which includes many of the author's furnishings, also has a private beach. (800) OUTPOST; www.islandoutpost.com/Goldeneye/index.htm

  • CURAÇAO'S BRAKKEPUT MEI MEI dates to the early 18th century, and was originally a Dutch landhaus on a sprawling plantation. The historic plantation house can be used by groups of up to 1,000 attendees on porches that overlook the surrounding cunucu or countryside. 599-9-767-1500; www.curacao.com/brakkeput

  • The Danish heritage of ST. CROIX is seen at WHIM PLANTATION, an 18th-century sugar plantation and mill. Twelve acres of grounds house a restored windmill and former great house with separate kitchen; the facility has been used for dinners and receptions as well as lawn parties and concerts. (340) 772-0598; www.stcroixlandmarks.com/whim.html

  • Located on SAN JUAN BAY, PUERTO RICO'S LA PRINCESA was first used in 1837 as a penitentiary. The historic building, which is surrounded by city walls, can host banquets for up to 500 attendees, who can also enjoy the venue's art gallery. With its large grounds, events at the venue often feature local music and dance. (787) 721-2400; www.meetpuerto rico.com

  • Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, CANCUN'S THE CITY can accommodate groups of up to 5,000 indoors. The nightclub features the world's largest disco ball and the most powerful color laser in a club installation in the world. The City also has a cinema screen. Smaller venues include a VIP area, a restaurant, and a private bar. 52-998-848-8380; www.thecitycancun.com