Friday,  February 28, 2020  12:51 am

Here’s a list of everything big that's happening in your favourite Caribbean destinations


Here’s a list of everything big that's happening in your favourite Caribbean destinations
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

Last week, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) held their 38th annual CHTA Marketplace in Nassau, Bahamas.

Over the course of two days, a series of press conferences gave tourism boards and delegates the opportunity to showcase what’s new and what’s to be expected in the year ahead for their respective destinations.

From incoming luxury properties and not-to-be-missed events to increased airlift, here's what to watch out for in 2020 for these Caribbean countries:

ANGUILLA

On the heels of a record-breaking year for stayover arrivals, Anguilla is showing guests a completely revamped product, offering a number of stunning new accommodations across the island.

Anguilla isn't exclusive to those with deep pockets, and there are more and more accommodations available now. While it may be a five-star destination, it doesn't necessarily have five-star prices.

Thanks to how close the islands are to one another, crossing into Anguilla from St. Maarten continues to be a popular choice for travellers looking to check an extra country off their bucket list.

Those looking to do so can choose between several convenient options: from the French side, a public ferry operates every 45 minutes from Marigot. The trip takes 25 minutes and costs $20 USD. From the Dutch side, there's a seven-minute flight to Anguilla, or a 25-minute ferry ride departing from the SXM airport.

Air Transat, Sunwing, and WestJet all currently fly to Anguilla.

The following new experiences and hotels await travellers to Anguilla this year:

  • Belmond Cap Juluca and CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa underwent year-long renovations
  • Frangipangi Beach Resort went green, with the installation of a new solar panel system projected to power 70 per cent of the resort; reusable cups and a filtered water station are also offered to guests to minimize the circulation of water bottles.
  • Sand, Sea, and Sky Villas by Long Bay Villas have been completely renovated inside and out; all three can be rented individually or in combination to provide up to 16 bedrooms.
  • Santosha Villa Estate, a key property for the MICE market, accommodates nine bedrooms across a grand villa and collection of guest houses which, when booked together, can sleep 56 people; oceanfront wedding venues, basketball courts, event spaces, and tennis courts are also included.
  • Zemi Beach House LXR part of Hilton's luxury collection, opened in December 2019, marking LXR's debut in the Americas, and Hilton's first property in Anguilla.
  • Prickley Pear Cay and Scilly Cay have both reopened, and the popular sea tours are back up and running, taking visitors to one or more of Anguilla's unspoiled cays.
  • A new luxury boutique resort, Tranquility Beach Resort Anguilla will open by the end of the month on Meads Bay Beach; 15 beachfront, one- to three-bedroom luxury resort condominiums are available for rent or purchase.
  • Four Seasons Resort & Residences Anguilla will transform its signature restaurant, Coba, into Salt, which will use local products on the menu.
  • More than 100 restaurants, ranging from five-star dining to local food trucks are available on the island.

For more information on what's new for Anguilla in 2020, click here!

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

These days, everybody wants to travel like a local.

Antigua and Barbuda are answering the call, with a string of cultural events on full display across the island, and one of the major ways the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority is showcasing this is through the island's culinary scene, whether that's by inviting travellers to enjoy a local fish fry on Friday night, or watch a cooking competition by Antiguan chefs.

Antigua and Barbuda is also committed to becoming totally green in the next two years, and the government has already banned plastic bags, straws, and single-use plastics. In terms of cars, the destination is also looking to ban fossil fuels and introduce electric vehicles.

"We were the first country in the Western Hemisphere to ban single-use plastics and styrofoams," said Colin James, CEO, Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority. "If you come into Antigua and Barbuda with your shoes wrapped in a plastic bag, customs officers will destroy the bag and take it away from you." 

Besides a ton of exciting new hotels opening up in Antigua this year, here's what's new for the island in 2020:

  • New luxurious ferry and seaplane for those travelling between Antigua and Barbuda
  • New adults-only all-inclusive, The Escape at Nonsuch Bay will feature 40 Luxury Ocean suites, complete with outdoor soaking tubs.
  • The Great House, a 350-year old plantation house, just opened four new cottages, offering the perfect stay for those seeking history and culture.
  • 15 new properties have been approved and are currently under construction, representing more than 2,000 rooms that blend luxury and affordability; brands include Marriott Autograph Collection, Hilton with the Waldorf Astoria, Rosewood with Half Moon Bay Resorts, and Best Western.
  • New tours, including the Government House Garden Tours (have afternoon tea in a 17th century colonial home) Eat n'Lime Food Tours (an off-the-beaten culinary journey through St. John's), and Rum in the Ruins tours (an education on rum through UNESCO World Heritage sites).
  • New partnership with Geotourist, a GPS travel tech company to develop an app which offers visitors educational tours in 11 different languages.
  • Showcase Antigua Barbuda conference takes place June 10-11, hosted by the ABTA and Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association.

For more information on what's new for Antigua and Barbuda in 2020, click here!

BAHAMAS

Despite the arrival of Hurricane Dorian to the Islands of the Bahamas on Sept. 1, 2019, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation has exceeded record-breaking arrival numbers, and recorded seven million visitors last year.

Fifteen of the 16 islands are open for business, and Nassau and Paradise Island, which account for 80 per cent of the country's tourism spend, were untouched.

From Toronto, Air Canada and WestJet fly to Nassau daily, while Sunwing services the destination twice weekly

Out of Montreal, Air Canada has increased its service to fly to Nassau four times a week as of this January, and from Calgary, WestJet flies to Nassau once a week. Currently, North Americans represent 89 per cent of foreign visitor arrivals to the Islands of the Bahamas.

Here's a look at what's new for the Bahamas in 2020:

  • Nassau’s Prince George Wharf cruise port is currently in the midst of a $250 million-dollar transformation that will enable the port to welcome an extra 4 million passengers every year.
  • Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is now offering travellers to the Bahamas the choice between a luxurious two or four-night stay in any of Nassau Paradise Island’s resorts.
  • Opening June 2020, the five-star Margaritaville Beach Resort in Nassau will feature an open-air shopping concourse, movie theatre, bowling alley, outdoor stage for live entertainment, a spa, a private beach, and much more.
  • After a $4.5 million-dollar refurbishment, the Lynden Pindling International Airport is now the main gateway into the country.
  • The People To People project, first introduced in 2018, continues to pair travellers with local Bahamians to have unique one-of-a-kind experiences, such as dining in a local's home, or seeing what life is like for farmers like Lady Di, who has been growing pineapples for decades.

To learn more about what's going on in the Bahamas this year, click here!

JAMAICA

Currently promoting a new campaign called 'Heartbeat of the World', this year, Jamaica is encouraging visitors to go beyond the beach, and take advantage of all of the elements of Jamaica’s rich and vibrant culture, from music and cuisine to nature and wellness.

In 2019, preliminary numbers indicate that Jamaica welcomed 4.3 million international visitors to the island, of which 2.7 million were stopover arrivals, each spending an average of 8.1 days.

Cruises contributed to 2.1 million of those visitors, and destination earnings from those combined arrivals grew by 10.2 per cent, representing $3.64 billion USD.

“This year is poised to be a very strong year for Jamaica,” said Donovan White, director of tourism, the Jamaica Tourist Board. “The global demand for travel to Jamaica has grown by 76 per cent over the last three years."

Travellers to Jamaica can expect the following:

  • 170,000 added air seats to Jamaica: 68,300 from the U.S; 14,200 from Canada; 30,000 from Europe; 25,600 from the Caribbean; 32,400 from Latin America.
  • Half Moon will open the highly-anticipated Half Moon Eclipse on March 1, 2020, creating three distinct accommodation options. The Half Moon Eclipse will feature 57 luxurious and spacious accommodations with four new restaurants and bars, spread across 300 acres.
  • Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon Eclipse will open two overwater bungalows for massage and yoga
  • Tryall Golf & Country Club will open its new Beach Club this year, representing a $9.2M USD investment; features include an expanded private beach, new infinity pool, lounge area, bar and grill, and more.
  • All-inclusive Ocean Coral Spring Resort, operated by H10 Hotels, opened December 2019 and will be fully complete by May 2020, featuring 513 rooms, 10 restaurants, a waterpark, two pools, and four bars.
  • Breaking ground for three new mega hotels: The Hard Rock Hotel (1,900 rooms and casino); Karisma Hotels (the first 900 of 4,000 rooms); Princess Hotel (2,000 rooms breaking ground in the next 60 to 90 days, scheduled for completion by Q4 in 2021).
  • A multi-purpose complex on the Kingston waterfront that will include retail, entertainment and office spaces, the 168-room Rock Hotel (part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton) will offer guests easy access to Kingston's business district and treasured attractions and active nightlife.
  • The Courtleigh Hotel Group re-opened their newly-refurbished 400-room tower, formerly a Hilton, in Kingston by the end of this year.

For more information on what's new for 2020 in Jamaica, click here!

PUERTO RICO

Back in 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Irma, and, just one week later, felt the wrath of Hurricane Maria, too. 

Both Category 5 storms, the island sustained significant damage, with many homes, businesses, properties, and lives claimed by both hurricanes.

Destruction came knocking again two years later, when a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico on Jan. 7, 2020. The southern region suffered some damage, however, all airports and cruise ports, including Old San Juan, are fully operational, and the majority of hotels and attractions are open.

The earthquake struck off shore near Ponce, southern Puerto Rico, which several hours away from popular tourist spot Old San Juan.

Immediately following the hurricanes in 2017, the tourism board created a brand new marketing arm called Discover Puerto Rico, and aggressively went after the consumer market with unique marketing and advertising campaigns to inspire and convince people to come back to the island once more, where tourism has a $7.8B impact on the local economy.

"Looking at 2019 compared to 2018, we can see that it is possible to come out of a crisis when business is winding down during recovery, and replace it with authentic visitation numbers," said Brad Dean, CEO, Discover Puerto Rico. "It's really encouraging to see that two years out from devastation, Puerto Rico's current tourism isn't just meeting pre-Maria's levels, it's exceeding them."

Resilient as ever, Puerto Rico wants the world to know that they are open for business.

Here's a look at some updates, and what's new in Puerto Rico for 2020:

  • A brand-new five-acre entertainment complex, located next to the convention centre, is opening this spring.
  • Four Seasons Cayo Largo, Puerto Rico, featuring 136-rooms and an 18-hole golf course, is a five-star luxury hotel set to open in late 2020.
  • Power has been fully restored to the San Juan Cruise Port in Old San Juan, where hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers arrive daily.
  • All flights are operating normally to/from the San Juan Luis Muñoz Marin, Ponce and Aguadilla airports, and ferry service to and from Vieques and Culebra are running normally.
  • Major attractions such as El Morro, El Yunque, San Cristobal Fort, and hotels throughout the northern region of Puerto Rico, including all areas around San Juan, continue to be open for business.

To learn more about what's coming to Puerto Rico this year, click here!

ST. LUCIA

It was another record-breaking year for St. Lucia, where, for the first time, the island recorded more than 400,000 visitors.

Besides its stunning luxury properties, this year, St. Lucia is eager to give tourists a glimpse into local life, with a series of festivals and cultural events happening all year round. One of the most popular is "village tourism," which aims to bring tourists into the smaller towns that otherwise don't see much tourism traffic.

"Village tourism is heating up, and local fish fries are jamming with tourists every Friday," said Dominic Fedee, minister of tourism, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. "The project is advancing quite well, and we're doing more to include St. Lucians in the process, because working with locals ensures people have the authenticity that they want to experience on the island."

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Here's a look at what's coming to St. Lucia this year:

  • The Saint Lucia Canelles Resort, managed by AMResorts, just broke ground, and is expected to be complete by 2022.
  • Just opened a brand new horse racing club which is part of a project that seeks to add roughly 2,500 rooms around the airport facility; the horse racing club is expected to bring a new clientele to St. Lucia, who have higher purchasing power.
  • A new terminal will arrive at the airport in approximately three years.
  • A brand new cruise port is being built on the south end of the island, and will accommodate the largest class of cruise ships and their passengers, while opening up the entire southern Caribbean, enabling visitors to see more of St. Lucia, and provide tourism dollars to smaller communities.
  • A host of hotel projects in the pipeline including a new 780-room Hyatt property in the north end of the island, and an estimated 2,500 new rooms in the next seven to 10 years, representing a one billion dollar investment.
  • A series of festivals happening all across the island, starting with the Saint Lucia's Jazz Festival from May 7-9 at the Lincoln Center.

To learn more about what's new for St. Lucia in 2020, click here

ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN

Plane-watching at Maho Beach never gets old.

But there's plenty more to see and do on both the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten/St.Martin.

For starters, there are two cruise ports on the island, which include the Port of Galisbay, which welcomes small to medium-sized cruise ships, as well as the Port of St. Maarten, which can accommodate the biggest cruise ships like Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Twenty-five of the 26 airlines flying into Princess Juliana International Airport have returned post-Irma, including Air Transat (from Montreal and Toronto), Sunwing (from Montreal and Toronto), WestJet (from Toronto), and Air Canada.

Every year, Saint Martin welcomes more than 2 million cruisers at two ports: The Port of Galis Bay, and The Port of St. Maarten.

Maho Beach.

Here's a look at what's new for both the Dutch side and the French side of the island in 2020:

  • The World Bank provided $72M USD to rebuild SXM airport; the Level 1 departure area has been partially reconstructed, and the roof was completed in May 2019. Reconstruction of the Terminal Building project will be finished in 2022.
  • Several new hotels are opening in 2020 including: Adonis Hotel, Morgan Hotel, Diamond Resorts Royal Palm, Diamond Resorts Flamingo Beach, Beach Hotel, with more on the way in 2021 including Planet Hollywood and Golfe Hotel.
  • A new 258-room Secrets Resort & Spa is also opening March 2020, 35 minutes from SXM airport; 30 per cent of rooms will have swim-out pools.
  • More than 300 restaurants are open for business, including brand new eateries in Nettle Bay, Orient Bay, and Grand Case.
  • Coral Beach Club Villas & Marina was recently renovated.
  • More than 90 per cent of shops have returned to Philipsburg, and by 2021, all road work across the island will be complete.

To learn more about what's new for St. Maarten/St. Martin, click here!


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