Caribbean: What's new and trend­ing

Since 2017 parts of the Caribbean have fought back from a dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane while other is­lands have worked to counter a false per­cep­tion of blan­ket dev­as­ta­tion. Kathryn Lis­ton looks at progress to date

Selling Travel - - Contents -

The bar­man is work­ing ten to the dozen, hand­ing out jugs of zesty mo­ji­tos to waiters who pass them over peo­ple’s heads to the crowded wooden ta­bles.

Lo­cals mill around chat­ting, some loll on the walls, oth­ers take a breather from the sti­fling heat on the bal­cony that over­looks a nar­row side street in San­ti­ago de Cuba, Cuba’s sec­ond largest city.

A mur­mur of ex­cited voices be­comes a hub­bub, as a band of mu­si­cians strike up a tune and ev­ery­one leaps to their feet, spin­ning, gy­rat­ing and twirling to the mu­sic’s lively, pul­sat­ing salsa and son beat. Their feet are light­ning quick, as are the fin­gers that glide ef­fort­lessly over ac­com­pa­ny­ing gui­tars. Trom­bones bel­low out pow­er­ful brassy sounds.

The pace and pulse of Casa de La Trova – one of the city’s many mu­sic clubs – is elec­tri­fy­ing. Lo­cals in­vite us to join in, twist­ing and twirling us round and round un­til it’s dif­fi­cult to know which way is up.

It’s party time – Cuba-style – and some­thing that ev­ery vis­i­tor to this mu­sic cap­i­tal should ex­pe­ri­ence.

Spe­cial­i­sa­tion is key

Cuba isn’t the only Caribbean des­ti­na­tion show­ing growth. A stream of new and re­fur­bished ho­tels, more flights and a greater fo­cus on spe­cial­ist mar­kets across the re­gion is giv­ing it an edge in the hol­i­day mar­ket.

Ser­gio Gar­cia-Gon­za­lez, Head of Mar­ket­ing at The Hol­i­day Place, says: “Hote­liers in the Caribbean are re­sort­ing to a va­ri­ety of strate­gies to keep hav­ing an edge with the pub­lic in the UK. Spe­cial­i­sa­tion is among the most com­mon tac­tics you can see where re­sorts fo­cus on fam­i­lies or cou­ples (or adults-only) and tai­lor their of­fer­ing for these two trav­eller groups.”

Hote­liers are also en­hanc­ing their all-in­clu­sive pro­grammes with ‘re­sort cred­its’ or al­low­ing guests to use fa­cil­i­ties in nearby ho­tels, he adds.

Paul Cleary, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Carib­tours, says: “The Caribbean is do­ing well and for­ward book­ings for 2019 look strong. Bar­ba­dos con­tin­ues to sell well, Saint Lu­cia and An­tigua are very pop­u­lar and the Gre­nadines are up and com­ing.”

Carib­tours has added The Lim­ing in Be­quia and the Park Hy­att St. Kitts to its 2019 pro­gramme. “The Bri­tish Air­ways flight into St. Kitts, via An­tigua, re­ally helps,” adds Cleary.

Mike Tay­lor, Prod­uct Op­er­a­tions

Man­ager at Lusso, says ex­cit­ing ad­di­tions to the Caribbean over the last 12 months, in­clude the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Canouan (Gre­nadines), Park Hy­att St. Kitts and Rose­wood Baha Mar in The Ba­hamas.

“In 2018 we have seen in­creased de­mand, par­tic­u­larly for Bar­ba­dos, Saint Lu­cia, The Ba­hamas and the Turks & Caicos,” he says.

Tay­lor adds that many ho­tels in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­land, St Barth, St Martin and An­guilla are com­ing back “stronger and even more lux­u­ri­ous” than be­fore Hur­ri­canes Irma and Maria hit last year, though he ad­mits a de­cline in busi­ness to these is­lands.

All BVI prop­er­ties are ex­pected to have re­opened by early 2020. The re­stored Great House on Necker Is­land is the lat­est. Bit­ter End Yacht Club and Rose­wood Lit­tle Dix Bay will fol­low in late 2019.

On St Barth, Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France will re­open next month. Do­minica’s Se­cret Bay and Jun­gle Bay will re­open this month and next Fe­bru­ary re­spec­tively. The lux­ury Cabrits Re­sort Kempin­ski Do­minica and Anichi Re­sort will open late 2019

Ac­tiv­i­ties

A 1914 vin­tage rail­way will wel­come its first pas­sen­gers on Jan­uary 4 at St Ni­cholas Abbey, Bar­ba­dos. The 45-minute jour­ney on the for­mer sugar train will take pas­sen­gers through fields, ma­hogany wood­land and up to Cherry Tree Hill.

Du­ran Du­ran, The Chainsmok­ers and Blondie are lined up to head­line the new KAABOO mu­sic and com­edy fes­ti­val in the Cay­man Is­lands in Fe­bru­ary.

In Saint Lu­cia, Marigot Bay Re­sort and Ma­rina and Cap Mai­son are of­fer­ing guests the op­por­tu­nity to hike up Gros Pi­ton. Zip-lin­ing is also on of­fer at Marigot, and cho­co­late-mak­ing at Cap Mai­son.

Ho­tels

Lux­ury ho­tel group Six Senses will make its Caribbean de­but on St. Kitts in 2021. The re­sort’s 70 pool vil­las will be set in 41 acres of a for­mer sugar plan­ta­tion in the La Vallee area.

Man­darin Ori­en­tal Ho­tels is to open a 100-room beach­front prop­erty in Grand Cay­man in 2021, fea­tur­ing five restau­rants and a farm pro­vid­ing fresh pro­duce.

Half Moon Ja­maica will com­plete a

$75 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment this month (Novem­ber) in time to cel­e­brate its 65th an­niver­sary. It in­cludes 57 new rooms and suites, a swim­ming cove, two new restau­rants, a ve­gan cafe and three bars.

The lux­ury Sil­ver­sands Ho­tel opens on Grand Anse Beach, Gre­nada, this month of­fer­ing beach­front and hill­side vil­las, two gourmet restau­rants, a spa and a 300-foot in­fin­ity pool – the Caribbean’s largest.

The S Ho­tel Mon­tego Bay, Ja­maica, will open this year with 120 rooms and suites.

The re­fur­bished Fair­mont Royal Pavil­ion, Bar­ba­dos, will wel­come chil­dren year­round from next month. Un­der 12s shar­ing with par­ents will stay free.

Nine new ho­tels will in­crease the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic’s ho­tel stock by 2,800 rooms next year. They in­clude Wikki Beach Re­sort and Na­ture ho­tel in Punta Balatá and the 600-room Bh Caribe Ho­tel in Punta Cana.

sell it: lusso (lus­so­travel.com) of­fers 12 nights’ B&B at Half moon, Ja­maica, from £5,455pp – a sav­ing of £2,805pp – in­clud­ing flights with Vir­gin At­lantic, com­pli­men­tary trans­fers and un­lim­ited golf. Book by fe­bru­ary 28, 2019.

Boats & planes

Dream Yacht Char­ter (dreamy­achtchar­ter.

co.uk) has in­tro­duced By the Cabin cruises in Guade­loupe, Gre­nadines, for 2019 in ad­di­tion to the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, Cuba, Gre­nada and St Martin.

Vir­gin At­lantic and Thomas Cook have restarted flights to Bar­ba­dos this win­ter, from Heathrow and Gatwick re­spec­tively.

In­terCaribbean Air­ways will add new Tor­tola ser­vices from St Kitts, Santo Domingo, St Thomas, St Croix, Bar­ba­dos, Punta Cana, San­ti­ago (Dom Rep), as well as new non-stop Santo Domingo to Kingston ser­vices and new Aruba and Cu­ra­cao ser­vices from Santo Domingo (dates soon to be con­firmed).

Ba­hama­sair has in­tro­duced a Satur­day­only ser­vice from Mi­ami, Florida, to San Sal­vador, Ba­hamas; Delta has added a sec­ond daily non-stop flight to Nas­sau from New York’s John F Kennedy air­port.

sell it: Thomas Cook has seven nights’ room-only at the But­ter­fly Beach Ho­tel in Oistins, Bar­ba­dos. Priced from £778pp the deal in­cludes flights and re­turn trans­fers and is based on de­par­tures from manch­ester this De­cem­ber.

Din­ing

Top Deck Caribbean restau­rant and Hugo’s in­ter­na­tional cui­sine restau­rant are new to Speight­stown, Bar­ba­dos. Singer Rhi­anna has re­cently been named tourism am­bas­sador for the is­land.

The Cove at At­lantis Par­adise Is­land in The Ba­hamas has opened the Fish seafood restau­rant by two-Miche­lin-starred chef José An­drés, whose sig­na­ture lion fish dish is help­ing to wipe out the preda­tor.

The BodyHol­i­day’s multi-mil­lion-dol­lar ren­o­va­tion in­cludes a new sushi counter, two new vil­las and re­fur­bish­ment of 76 Lux­ury Ocean View rooms.

top tip: Pa­trick’s in St Ge­orge’s, Gre­nada, is an in­sti­tu­tion and a restau­rant ded­i­cated to homestyle caribbean cook­ing, serv­ing up dishes like bread­fruit salad, stewed pump­kin, fried plan­tains, gin­gered pork and cur­ried mut­ton.

Con­ser­va­tion

Fam­i­lies can help re­lease sea tur­tles back into the wild at At­lantis Par­adise Is­land, The Ba­hamas.

The rare Ba­hama Nuthatch, thought to be ex­tinct fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Matthew in 2016, has re­cently been spot­ted by re­searchers on Grand Ba­hama Is­land.

The Cay­man Is­lands’ Queen Eliz­a­beth II Botanic Park has re­leased its 1,000th blue iguana into the wild as part of a breed­ing pro­gramme for the en­dan­gered species.

Win it: Book a hol­i­day to the Cay­man Is­lands of five nights or more be­tween now and May 31, 2019, and for a chance to win a hol­i­day for two to the is­lands. The book­ing must in­clude flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion. email book­ing info to agent­book­ing@cay­man­is­lands.ky to en­ter.

Clock­wise, from top left: the Park Hy­att St. Kitts; Lusso Travel of­fers Half Moon, Ja­maica, with un­lim­ited golf; Rose­wood Lit­tle Dix Bay is due to re­open in late 2019; Soufriere seafront, over­look­ing the fa­mous Pi­tons; on the beach in Gre­nada

Clock­wise from bot­tom left: Lux­ury Sil­ver­sands Ho­tel, Gre­nada opens this month (Novem­ber) com­plete with the Caribbean’s largest in­fin­ity pool; de­mand for The Ba­hamas has risen in 2018; in-room mas­sage at the Fair­mont Royal Pavil­ion, which now wel­comes kids year-round; Man­darin Ori­en­tal Canouan in the Gre­nadines is one of a num­ber of new ad­di­tions in the last year, along with the Rose­wood Baha mar in the Ba­hamas

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