Wednesday, September 28, 2005

St. Kitts Increases Luxury Appeal With New Tourism Products

In a strategic move to leverage St. Kitts' renowned beauty, cultural heritage
and natural attractions - product attributes often sought by a more
sophisticated and discerning traveller - St. Kitts is pursuing the development
of more luxurious accommodations and those vacation pastimes associated with
upscale, experienced travellers.

Among the projects currently planned or underway are:

Luxury Development by Auberge Resorts - Previously referred to as Whispering
Head Resort, this as yet unnamed $78 million project is being developed by
award-winning luxury hotel company Auberge Resorts and will be the company's
first Caribbean property. Set on a 1,700 acre peninsula in the Sandy Bank Bay
area of St. Kitts, the project will include a small luxury hotel, world-class
golf course, spa, villas and fine dining facilities. Construction is expected to
commence in early 2006 and the resort is tentatively scheduled to open in the
fall of 2008.

Heritage Plantation - This upscale community will consist of 19 luxury villas in
four distinctive styles ranging between 5,305 sq. ft. and 8,412 sq. ft. and will
be located on 22 acres of premium land at Scotch Bonnet on St. Kitts' Southeast
Peninsula. It will also feature a 6,500 square foot Landmark Centre containing a
fitness centre, full service spa, practice putting green, tennis court, pool,
whirlpool, children's playground and the Flagstaff Café. Construction on the
first residence began in April 2005 and the villas will be ready for viewing in
October 2005.

La Vallee Golf Course - Located in the Sandy Point area of northern St. Kitts
with spectacular views of the Caribbean, neighbouring St. Eustatius and Mt.
Liamuiga from the tees (especially the 12th), this 18-hole championship golf
course is currently in the first phase of development. Aside from the 18-hole
course itself, the first phase will also include construction of a practice
facility with driving range and putting green as well as a club house.
Construction on the club house is expected to begin in January 2006. Projected
completion date for the golf course is November 2005. Plans for the $12 million
course allot for the future development of a marina, hotel resort, villas,
sports complex and possible expansion of the course to 27 holes. This will be
the second premier golf facility for the island following the opening of the
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club in November 2004.

Rawlins Plantation Inn - This boutique plantation inn on the north side of St.
Kitts is undergoing an expansion to provide more options for those sophisticated
guests seeking an ultimate escape. Currently under construction is a new 1,200
sq.ft. two bedroom cottage complete with a kitchenette, plunge pool, full bath
and shower, washing machine and built-in vacuum system so that guests who want
to remain undisturbed never have to leave the privacy and comfort of their room.
The cottage will be fully wired for the Internet and satellite TV, which can be
provided upon request. The cottage will be available in December 2005 and there
are plans for a second two bedroom cottage to open in February 2006. The
property is also planning to add a 3,000 sq. ft. luxury spa in 2007, featuring a
wellness centre, fitness centre and salon.

'Our goal for St. Kitts is to create a tourism product that can compete on a
level with the finest destinations in the world,' commented Richard 'Ricky' O.
Skerritt, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture for
St. Kitts. 'With these new upscale developments, we have effectively positioned
St. Kitts to emerge in the coming years as the next luxury destination of choice
for discerning travellers.'

Monday, September 19, 2005

Las Vegas, Caribbean Cruising Rank as Top Destinations in Carlson Wagonlit Travel 2005 Fall Travel Trends Survey

Las Vegas and Caribbean cruises once again top the list of top fall
destinations being booked by Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates, as the travel
agency announced the results of its 2005 Fall Travel Trends Survey.

The following lists display the top ten domestic and international
destinations for fall 2005, compared to the results from the 2004 survey
conducted one year ago.**

Top 10 Fall Domestic Destinations: 2005

1 - Las Vegas, NV
2 - Orlando, FL
3 - Honolulu, HI
4 - Maui, HI
5 - New York City, NY
6 - San Francisco, CA
7 - Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
8 - Kauai, HI
9 - Miami, FL
10 - Anaheim/Orange County, CA

Note: Alaska cruising was not offered as option for this question in 2005

Top 10 Fall Domestic Destinations: 2004

1 - Las Vegas, NV
2 - Orlando, FL
3 - Maui, HI
4 - Honolulu, HI
5 - Alaska Cruises
6 - New York City, NY
7 - San Francisco, CA
8 - Kauai, HI
9 - Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
10 - Miami, FL

Top 10 Fall International Destinations: 2005

1 - Caribbean Cruising
2 - Cancun, Mexico
3 - Riviera Maya, Mexico
4 - Jamaica
5 - Playa del Carmen, Mexico
6 - Mexico Cruising
7 - Rome, Italy
8 - Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico
9 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
10 - London, England

Top 10 Fall International Destinations: 2004

1 - Caribbean Cruising
2 - Cancun, Mexico
3 - Riviera Maya, Mexico
4 - Jamaica
5 - Mexico Cruising
6 - London, United Kingdom
7 - Punta Cana, Dominican Rep.
8 - Playa del Carmen, Mexico
9 - Rome, Italy
10 - Cozumel, Mexico

Other major findings from the Fall Travel Trends Survey:

• 61% of respondents said that comparing their 2005 bookings so far to their
2004 bookings at this time, bookings are higher. 29% said bookings are even,
leaving 10% saying bookings are lower.

• When asked to name destinations that seem to be new or emerging among clients
as popular for fall travel, Costa Rica and Cabo San Lucas were among the top
destinations named. Cabo leapt from # 17 to # 8 on the international
destinations list. Costa Rica did not make the top 10, but was named by 3.6% of
those surveyed.

• Many of the Associates polled expressed concern over the Western Hemisphere
passport guidelines introduced earlier in the year by the U.S. State Department.
Those guidelines have since been revised.

The passport requirements would have required anyone traveling to the Caribbean
to have a passport by December 31, 2005. That deadline will now be pushed further out. "However, we would urge anyone considering a trip to the Caribbean to apply for their passport now, so as not to face the time crunch later," said Block. "Eventually, travelers to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada will need passports.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates have easy access to passport applications and are well-versed in document requirements, no matter what corner of the world you're traveling to."

Business Outlook and Travel Trends

Carlson Wagonlit Travel's 2005 Fall Travel Trends Survey asked respondents to identify key 2005 fall travel trends and to forecast their outlook for business in the year ahead. Here are some of the more notable results:

Regarding 2005 bookings to date, what trends have you noticed? (Associates could select as many answers that applied)

Top 5 Answers Percentage Answered

• International travel seems to be on the rebound 59.8%
• The booking window seems to be lengthening56.7%
• Cruising is becoming more popular 54.9%
• Clients are feeling more confident about traveling farther from home53.7%
• Clients are spending more per vacation48.8%

Which of the following do you hear most often from your customers regarding the impact of high gas prices and/or extra fuel surcharges?

• The extra cost isn't a factor 69.9%
• The extra cost has caused some people to scale back on travel 27.0%
• The extra cost has caused many to scale back on travel 3.1%

* 2005 Fall Travel Trends Survey was of 166 CWT agents taken July 20- August 10,
** 2004 Fall Travel Trends Survey was of 313 CWT agents taken July 8- August 12,

Monday, August 15, 2005

Online travel sales soars - search engines are the drivers

Revenue at online travel agencies such as Expedia and Travelocity will soar 19 percent to $27.7 billion in the United States this year, according to a report released last week by financial services company Merrill Lynch.

The new estimate is more optimistic than the one Merrill Lynch issued just three months ago, which predicted U.S. growth of 15 percent. One reason for the more bullish forecast is that although consumers have the option of purchasing directly from airlines, hotels, and other direct suppliers, bookings via online agency sites were nonetheless up by 20 percent in this year's second quarter. Consumers also will up their spending with direct travel suppliers on the Web, predicted Merrill Lynch.

The firm forecast that revenues at direct suppliers online will grow by 27 percent this year, to $32.5 billion. Overall, online travel sales will account for an estimated 30 percent of the total travel market this year - up from 25 percent last year and 21 percent in 2003, the report asserted.

By 2007, Merrill Lynch predicts, online travel sales will represent 39 percent of all travel revenue, with growth from direct suppliers outpacing that of online travel agencies. In the report, Merrill Lynch research analyst Justin Post concluded that search engines are driving much of the increase in online bookings. He estimated that travel search technology accounted for $600 million in direct bookings last year.

What's more, he predicts that search-related bookings will double each year through 2007. Of the online agencies, Merrill Lynch expects Expedia to again capture the largest market share, with 44 percent of bookings this year; Travelocity will account for 23 percent of bookings, while 19 percent of online travel agency dollars will go to Orbitz.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Internet: Consumers' Favorite Travel Destination

88% of Online Consumers Use the Internet to Purchase or Plan This
Summer's Vacations

Overwhelmingly, consumers are turning to the Internet for their
summer travel planning and purchasing needs, according to
independent research conducted by Feedback Research, a division of
the Claria Corporation, a leader in online behavioral marketing.

By analyzing the actual online traffic and conducting a survey among
a sample of Claria's tens of millions of software users, Feedback
Research was able to gain insight into online travel research and
purchasing habits. Data was analyzed from April 1 through July 1,
2005, in the months leading up to summer vacation travel. A survey
was also conducted among users who viewed travel category sites in
the prior 30 days and also had purchased travel in the prior 12

Results indicated that consumers are still taking a trip to the
Internet for their travel planning and purchasing needs, with 88% of
survey respondents who went or are planning to go on summer vacation
using or planning to use the Internet to research and/or purchase
their summer vacation arrangements this year. 61% of respondents who
went or were planning to go on summer vacation this year purchased
or planned to purchase airline tickets online, +11 pts vs. those who
went on a summer vacation last year. 52% purchased or planned to
purchase hotel accommodations online, a +12 pt increase from last

Further results indicate:

Consumers Travel Online to Compare Prices

Low prices seem to be the key driver for consumers researching and
buying travel for their summer vacations this year:

- When purchasing travel arrangements, 53% of respondents indicated
that they would travel with the brand/company that offered the
lowest price.

- Among respondents who purchased travel online: - 78% chose the
site(s) they typically purchase from because of good prices/rates; -
56% because the site was easy to use; and - 28% because of loyalty
or frequent flyer programs.

- 73% of respondents who purchased travel online have researched
travel at a general site, but then went to a specific company's site
to purchase their travel arrangements. - 52% of those respondents
did so because they found that company sites offered the lowest
prices. - 47% cited special deals and 43% cited better prices at
company sites while 22% wanted to receive frequent flyer credit.

- Consumers, perhaps looking for a low-cost travel deal, seemed to
site- hop between general travel sites and major airline sites: -
Over half of those who viewed, or
during research period, also viewed

- Site-hopping also seemed to be popular among general travel sites;
Of those who viewed during the research period, 71% also
viewed, 67% also viewed and 62% also viewed

- Of all travel category sites, airline only sites seemed to have to
most repeat viewers per month during the research period: had the most repeat viewers with the average viewer
coming back 9.31 times, this followed by with 9.29
times and with 9.19 times.

Internet Eases Procrastination for Travel Planners

- Among respondents who went or were planning to go on summer
vacation this year, 73% started planning 1 week to 3 months before

- Travel sites saw their biggest increases in traffic in mid-June. saw the biggest jump, closely followed by, and

- 50% of respondents typically purchase travel arrangements online 1
to 2 times a year while 27% purchased travel arrangements online 3
to 5 times a year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baha Mar Eyes Hotel Partner

The Baha Mar Development Company is in advanced stages of negotiations for a hotel partner and intends to meet an August 30 deadline to formalize an agreement in this regard, a company official said on Tuesday.

The company, which is carrying out a $1.2 billion redevelopment on Cable Beach, is also seeking a casino partner.

In the meantime, Baha Mar has embarked on a $15 million renovation of its properties on Cable Beach with a key element of the plan being the renovation of the Crystal Palace Casino.

In fact, Mr. Heller said the casino is undergoing "the largest amount of immediate change. If you come into the casino you would see already new slot machines on the floor. I’m sure most people realize that the gaming equipment was very old and we have state-of-the-art slot machines coming," he said.

A section of the casino has been closed off as part of the renovations.

The Baha Mar executive also reported that upgrade of some rooms at the Wyndham has already started. "We are going to be undertaking a major redevelopment programme," he added, noting that the work already taking place is only an interim step in improving the properties during the pre-development stage of Baha Mar.

As it relates to the design of the mega resort, company officials continue to note that there is a lot that has not yet been set in stone. Mr. Heller said, "We are evolving our plans as we discuss with our partners how everything fits together and we will be tearing down some portion of the properties in various stages. Our goal is to keep as much running as long as possible to minimize the impact on jobs and keep as many people as possible employed and transition them all to the overall Baha Mar complex when it opens." He added, "The final design is what you have when you start construction."

Baha Mar executives once viewed the Wyndham, formally owned by Wichita businessman Phil Ruffin, as the most neglected of the properties they bought at Cable Beach.
But Mr. Heller said that is all changing.

Baha Mar has plans to create a commercial village that will accommodate the business and government offices that are presently along the Cable Beach Strip which will be affected by development in the area.

The creation of the village will pave the way for the diversion of the West Bay Street, which officials say is slated to begin January 2006. Baha Mar has asked Bahamian architects to submit proposals for this aspect of the project.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fishermen Warned To Obey Rules As Crawfish Season Opens in the Bahamas

The Bahamas crawfish season opened yesterday after a four-month ban.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, V. Alfred Gray, urged fishermen to observe all of the rules and regulations or face prosecution. As in previous years, the Department of Fisheries is gearing up to fight poachers and illegal fishing.

It is believed that most poachers are commercial fishermen, primarily from the Dominican Republic, who habitually fish in the southern Bahamas. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $50,000 or a one-year term in prison... or both.

The Department is warning against the trapping of undersized crustaceans and the use of unlicensed apparatus.

All crawfish caught must be at least five-and-a-half inches in tail length and three-and-one-quarter inches in jacket length.

Fishermen who are interested in using air compressors and traps to harvest lobsters need to obtain a permit from the Department of Fisheries. Compressors can only legally be used between the depths of 30 and 60 feet of water.

Friday, July 29, 2005

$55 Million Contract Signed For Atlantis Conference Centre

Kerzner International, which operates the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, and Cavalier Construction signed a $55 million deal on Wednesday for the expansion of the resort’s conference center.

Chief Operations Officer at Kerzner International Nan Pallmer said in the past the company has been restricted because there was insufficient space to host various large groups.

"With the expansion, Kerzner International could cater to a broader market attracting larger groups who will eventually turn into return guests seeking to experience the full experience of the resort," she said.

The current conference center features a 25,000 square foot grand ballroom which can accommodate 2,700 persons.

The expanded facility will feature a 50,000 square foot imperial ballroom, the largest in The Bahamas and the Caribbean region, and 30,000 square feet of pre-function space.
In addition the center will have 30 break-out rooms, a boardroom, a large staging area and a new banquet kitchen with additional pantries.
The new conference center will have the capacity to accommodate 5,000 guests.

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