Caribbean Islands

Ash Canned
The Cayman Islands now bans smoking in public places, including bars, restaurants and stores.

Aruba
Local Update:The Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort added 140 suites last year for a total of 241 guest units. The new accommodations range from one-bedroom studios to three-bedroom penthouses, all with full kitchens and Jacuzzi tubs.

The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino put the finishing touches on a propertywide, US$50 million renovation with the reopening of its redesigned pool last September. 

Meeting Hotels:
 Properties in Oranjestad include the 556-room Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.

North of Oranjestad, resorts in Palm Beach include the 481-room Westin Aruba Resort; 411-room Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino; 360-room Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino; and 354-room Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa.   

Airport Transit: Queen Beatrix International Airport, about six miles from most hotels. Transfer cost by taxi, US$18 to Oranjestad, US$22 to Palm Beach/Eagle Beach

Taxes:
Room tax, 6.66%; Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association fee, 2%; hotel service charge, varies per hotel; sales tax, 1.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 10.16% plus hotel service charge

Group Venues:
The new Palms Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino offers caipirinhas and mojitos prepared tableside, beach views, and an open kitchen whipping up beer-fried pork chops and chorizo-stuffed lobster. (011) 297-586-1234; aruba.hyatt.com

CVB Services:
 Aruba Tourism Authority, (800) TO-ARUBA; aruba.com

 

Going up in Jamaica
The new Montego Bay Convention Centre is slated to open in January 2011; at press time, officials were seeking a management company for the facility. Plans for the center include more than 52,000 square feet of exhibition space, approximately 11,000 square feet of meeting space and a 20,000-square-foot banquet hall that will accommodate up to 2,000 people. The facility is in Rose Hall, about a 15-minute drive from Sangster International Air­port. In other news, the Jamai­can government added new taxes last October that affect visitors traveling to and from the island nation. In addition to increasing the departure tax (a fee that can be tacked onto airfare or paid before boarding) from $11 to $20, authorities upped the tax rate on phone calls and phone cards from 20 percent to 25 percent.

Dominican Republic
Local Update: The 337-room Westin Roco Ki Beach & Golf Resort will open in June 2011 in Punta Cana with 14 meeting rooms and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

Hard Rock International and Palace Resorts will open the all-inclusive, 1,800-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana this spring in Macao Beach. The property will have 65,000 square feet of meeting space, a 48,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole golf course, a Rock Spa and a 1,200-seat amphitheater.

AMResorts opened the 126-suite Golden Bear Lodge & Spa last December and will open two more properties here later this year: the 53-suite Zoëtry Pearl Sands Cap Cana and the 175-suite Pure Secrets Cap Cana, the latter with a 16,000-square-foot convention center.

Meeting Hotels: In Santo Domingo, properties include the 300-room Renaissance Jaragua Hotel & Casino, 278-room Occidental El Embajador, 228-room Hilton Santo Domingo, 196-room InterContinental V Centenario and 156-room Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino. In the Bávaro/Punta Cana resort area are the 1,800-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana (to open this spring), 865-room Occidental Grand Flamenco Punta Cana, 689-room Paradisus Punta Cana, 600-room Barceló Bávaro Beach, 592-room Iberostar Bávaro and 558-room Barceló Bávaro Palace.   

 Convention Center: Barceló Bávaro Convention Center; total space, 123,000 square feet; meeting space, 50,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 24. (888) 676-7960; barcelo.com

Airport Transit: Las Amér­icas International Airport, 18 miles east of Santo Domingo. Transfer cost by taxi, US$35

Punta Cana International Airport, 15-18 miles from the Bávaro/Punta Cana resorts. Transfer cost by taxi, US$35

Taxes:
Sales tax, 16%; service charge, 10%; total tax on hotel rooms, 26%
Group Venue: The par-72, 18-hole layout at the top-ranked (by Golfweek) Punta Espada Golf Club offers panoramic views of Cap Cana's stunning coast. The adjacent Golden Bear Lodge & Spa offers 126 suites and 2,300 square feet for events. (888) 496-3879; zoetryresorts.com/goldenbear

CVB Services:
 Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, (888) 374-6361; godominicanrepublic.com

 

Other Islands, Other Sites
Puerto Rico
The 600-room Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, a Wyndham Grand Resort, has converted a restaurant into an event space with a 1,200-square-foot seating area and an 880-square-foot foyer...In San Juan, the 503-room Sheraton Puerto Rico Convention Center Hotel opened last November...The 222-room Verdanza Hotel opened in the Isla Verde district in December.
Contact: (800) 875-4765; meetpuertorico.com

U.S. Virgin islands
US Airways, American and Delta all have boosted service to the U.S. Virgin Islands...An enhanced version of VisitUSVI.com offers new, robust features for meeting planners. A related site, usvigroups.com, has venue information, an RFP function, special group offers and more.
Contact: (800) 372-8784; USVItourism.vi

Trinidad & Tobago
Local Update: The Trinidad and Tobago Convention Bureau was launched last year to lure more convention business to the area. The bureau plans to offer a website specifically for meeting planners in the near future.

The Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre in Trinidad was completed in April 2009. The colorful complex includes the 428-room Hyatt Regency Trinidad (which features a conference center spanning approximately 43,000 square feet), retail space, two 26-story office towers and a park with waterfront views.

Meeting Hotels: In Port of Spain, Trinidad, hotels include the 428-room Hyatt Regency Trinidad, 412-room Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre, 243-room Crowne Plaza Trinidad and 165-room Carlton Savannah.

Tobago properties include the 135-room Coco Reef Resort and 67-room Turtle Beach Tobago by Rex Resorts.

Airport Transit: Piarco International Airport, about 15 miles west of Port of Spain, Trinidad. Transfer cost by tax to Port of Spain-area resorts, about US$25

Crown Point International Airport, 10 miles east of Scarborough, Tobago. Transfer cost by taxi to Scarborough-area resorts, about US$60

Taxes: Room tax, 10%; service charge, about 10% (varies by hotel); total tax on hotel rooms, about 20%

Group Venues:
The rooftop bar at the new 165-room Carlton Savannah, a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, features coastal views and impeccably mixed cocktails. The hotel's five meeting spaces host a total of up to 50 people. (868) 621-5000; thecarltonsavannah.com

CVB Services: Trinidad & Tobago Convention Bureau, (868) 675-7034; gotrinidadandtobago.com