The Latest Caribbean Destination News From SOTIC 2023

During the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s recent State of the Tourism Industry Conference in Turks and Caicos, representatives from 14 member nations provided the latest updates from the destinations. PressToday was on location to share the biggest news and developments.

Rosa Harris, Director of Tourism for the Cayman Islands, shared insights into several new developments underway in the destination. Among the upcoming openings are VIDA Ocean Adventure Lodge, set to open this year with 18 bungalows, and Hotel Indigo Grand Cayman, a 282-room property set to debut in Q2 of 2024.

On the topic of improving inter-island connectivity in the Caribbean, Cayman Airways just launched direct service to Bridgetown, Barbados for the first time on Oct. 18.

Travellers headed to Saint Lucia can expect a “complete state-of-the-art airport in about 2.5-3 years,” said Lorine Charles-St. Jules, Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. The first part of the redevelopment will see a new Air Traffic Control Tower debut in February.

In order to entice more return visitors, a new incentives program called Helen’s Rewards has just been launched, which agents can use for discounts for their clients and to increase bookings.

Among some of the existing projects in the pipeline is Secrets St. Lucia Resort & Spa, a 351-room property scheduled to open in June, 2024 and Cas en Bas Beach Resort, the first Destination by Hyatt branded resort and residences on Saint Lucia.

For clients looking to tie the knot in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Minister of Tourism Carlos James announced that couples no longer have to get a marriage license in person in St. Vincent. Along with decentralizing the process, the certificate can now be obtained online.

Several new hotels are in the pipeline, including a 93-room Holiday Inn Express, a 250-room Marriott and the 301-room Sandals Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, slated to open on March 27, 2024.

With the launch of Experience Turks and Caicos, a new DMO replacing its tourist board, Turks and Caicos is putting the spotlight on what the destination offers beyond the resort hub of Providenciales. Notably, the Turks and Caicos Islands currently has eight properties that are part of Virtuoso: Amanyara, Beach Enclave, COMO Parrot Cay, Grace Bay Club, The Palms, The Ritz-Carlton, The Shore Club, and Wymara Resort and Villas.

“Arrival levels have matched pre pandemic levels last year and we’re back on track to do the same thing this year,” noted Josephine Connolly – Minister of Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries, Heritage, the Environment and Religious Affairs for Turks and Caicos.

For those whose first language isn’t English, Latia Duncombe, Director General of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation said The Bahamas Specialist program recently launched in multiple languages to expand the program globally.

In accommodation news, there’s lots of new and upcoming development. Already open is the new Goldwynn Resorts & Residences in Nassau. Meanwhile a classic hotel, the British Colonial Nassau is relaunching in late 2023. Meanwhile, Six Senses Grand Bahama island resort will offer 45 waterfront and canal villas and 20 branded residences on Grand Bahama. For those looking for something new in the Abacos, Montage Cay is a new resort that will debut on a private 53-acre island.

Petra Roach, CEO, Grenada Tourism Authority, pointed out that lift to Grenada from Canada is strong. Air Canada is resuming flights on Oct. 29 with four weekly flights, up from two weekly flights last season. Sunwing is also resuming weekly service on Nov. 5.

Canadian arrivals are showing a 217% year to date increase in 2023 over 2022.

As for new openings, Six Senses La Sagesse will open in January of next year, pushed back from November. Another new opening will be the Silversands Beach House, sister property to Silversands Grenada, set to open in December.

Grenada will host the CTO’s Sustainable Tourism Conference from April 22-24, 2024.

Tourism to Anguilla is booming, with a record breaking 113,324 visitors coming to the island from January to August, representing a 20% increase over 2022.

“We continue to outpace 2019, which was our benchmark year for arrivals,” added Haydn Hughes, Minister of Infrastructure, Communications, Utilities, Housing and Tourism for Anguilla.

Hughes noted that phase 2 of its airport expansion, which includes a new cargo facility and a new terminal, is well underway and the new terminal construction is slated for January. The final part of the airport transportation will see a runway expansion.

Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism for the USVI, said the destination is set to surpass 2019 cruise levels.

New openings include The Morningstar Buoy Haus Beach Resort at Frenchman’s Reef, Autograph Property, a new-build property; and The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef, which reopened following a $350 million renovation, a big property featuring 392 rooms, including 28 suites.

Colin James, Chief Executive Officer of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said they are on a mission for “tourism to contribute about a billion to our local economy” — up from $700,000.

Notably, the destination can now accommodate Oasis class ships, “something we’ve been planning for awhile now and will happen for the first time in January 2024.

In resort news, the new Royalton Chic is set to open in first quarter of 2024 with 230 rooms.

Notably, Canadian arrivals saw a 118% increase over 2022 in 2023, based on year-to-date data. Across service from Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing, there are now daily flights out of Canada.

Representing the french St. Martin Tourist Office were Director Aïda Weinum and President Valérie Damaseau, who noted that air arrivals are already up 14% over 2022, indicating strong demand even during the low season.

Weinum noted that the airport expansion at Princess Juliana International Airport is well underway and the new arrival hall is now open and come mid-December, the new check-in area will debut. “The full completion is expected by summer 2024.”

Cruise visitors are also sailing into a strong year with expectations that the destination will surpass the 900,000 passenger mark recorded in 2022 over the 2023 season. 

Ellison “Tommy” Thompson, CEO, St. Kitts Tourism Authority, was upbeat about Canadian arrivals. “Fun fact: Canada’s business is up 500% over 2022!” he added. In terms of lift, Air Canada increased seat capacity by 66% with Friday service in addition to the Saturday flights for the season.

Summer in St. Kitts has been deemed “Summer of Fun” with a number of festivals and events taking place like the St. Kitts Music Festival and the Nevis Mango Festival.

Clive McCoy, director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands, said the destination has lots of hotel and resort news. Earlier this May, the luxury all-inclusive private island resort The Aerial BVI expanded from buy out model to welcome single-room bookings.

By the first quarter of 2024, Long Bay Beach Resort will be adding four new beachfront buildings and Peter Island Resort & Spa will reopen. As for a new property, Blunder Bay Estates will be opening soon.

Meanwhile, yacht charter company The Moorings has a new market and an improved watersports shop.

Tashia Burris, Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities & Transportation, for Tobago, noted that travellers with mobility challenges can now take advantage of water wing chairs at Pigeon Beach.

On the hotel front, Secrets is set to break ground on a 500 room development in Q2 of 2024. The high end property is slated to debut in 2026.

Construction also continues at Elephant Tree a new oceanfront development slated to debut with 126 Villas and a 40 room hotel.

Jamaica is on a roll when it comes to its room inventory. Donovan White, Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board, noted that approximately 8,000 rooms slated for construction over the next 2 to 5 years and approximately 15,000 to 20,000 rooms slated for construction over the next 5 to 10 years.

Recent openings include the 260-room Sandals Dunn’s River, Ocho Rios; the 352-room Hideaway at Royalton Blue Waters, an adults only property set to debut in Montego Bay in late November, as well as the 451-room UNICO 18º77º Hotel Montego Bay, which is slated to open in 2024.

The US$34-million runway extension project at the Sangster International Airport as well as the departure side of the airport expansion is now complete. A new Bob Marley restaurant is now open. The third phase of the expansion will now take on the arrivals side of the airport. In the meantime, White said one of the things that has simplified the arrival process is the mandatory Online Passenger Declaration (C5) Form for immigration/customs.