World-renowned for their glamorous tropical backdrops, relaxed lifestyle, welcoming ways, and time-honored traditions of exploration and discovery, the Caribbean islands are a dream destination for MICE groups. #MeetInTheCaribbean provides valuable resources including an exclusive monthly newsletter focused on the Caribbean MICE market, as well as special offers from industry partners and suppliers across the region.
• The 285-room Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman, inspired by the lyrics and lifestyle of singer, songwriter and author Jimmy Buffet, has opened on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. A transformation of the former Treasure Island Resort, the property has three meeting rooms, three pools, a fitness center, shops and six food-and-beverage outlets, including the 5 o'Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill; the License to Chill lobby bar; the Margaritaville Coffee Shop; the Banana Wind Café; the Spread charcuterie/wine bar; and Yara, a signature steak house.
• Southwest Airlines has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to serve Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman daily from Fort Lauderdale beginning this June.
• The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa has unveiled the first phase of a $50 million renovation. The lobby and its Catboat bar have been revamped, while the freshwater pool and swim-up bar have been expanded. The new Cayman Coffee Exchange offers light snacks and refreshments, and the fitness center and retail outlets have been enhanced with modern design. Phase two of the project will feature a redesign of all 343 guest rooms and suites, to be unveiled this August. The resort has more than 9,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and 40,000 square feet of outdoor event space, along with a spa and dining outlets that include the new Beach House, an AAA Four Diamond restaurant; Ferdinand's for traditional Caribbean dishes, and the Tortuga Beach Grill and Bar.
• Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants' first Caribbean property, the 266-room Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa, opened along the Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach late last year. Highlights include three restaurants: the signature Ave; the casual beach bar Coccoloba; and Avecita, which features a nine-seat chefs' bar serving seasonal dishes prepared around a wood-fired grill. In addition, Seafire's two pool bars specialize in creative cocktails and light bites. Among the resort's meeting spaces both indoor and out are the 7,076-square-foot Aurea Ballroom, the 10th-floor Presidential Suite and the Seabridge Green event lawn. For downtime, the 8,500-square-foot Spa at Seafire has seven treatment rooms. Guests also enjoy a lovely 500-foot strip of Seven Mile Beach.
• Also perched along Seven Mile Beach, the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, has unveiled the largest penthouse in the Caribbean, spanning some 19,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The 375-room upscale resort offers approximately 36,000 square feet for meetings and events.
• On the neighboring Island of Cayman Brac (a 30-minute flight from Grand Cayman), the cozy Le Soleil d'Or has opened, offering four suites and four private residences.
St. Lucia Update
With more than 1,000 hotel rooms to be added in the next few years, Saint Lucia has one of the most active pipelines in the Caribbean.
The 352-room Royalton Saint Lucia, located on a private cove in Cap Estate, debuted in February. Private events can be held at the resort's Sky Wedding Terrace, with views of Pigeon Island. Other offerings include a spa, eight signature Royalton restaurants and two food trucks. The venue incorporates the 104-room Hideaway at Royalton Saint Lucia, an adults-only resort within a resort featuring private infinity pools and an exclusive seafood grill.
Scheduled to open in September 2017, The Harbor Club on Rodney Bay Marina will feature 115 guest rooms. Amenities include four restaurants, four bars, a spa, a gym, a pool and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.
A new resort development, Pearl of the Caribbean, will break ground on a 700-acre site on the south end of the island at Beausejour, Vieux Fort. Features will include a casino, a horse racetrack, a resort and shopping-mall complex, waterfront villas, boathouses, a marina and an eco-tourism zone. The project will cost an estimated US$2.6 billion and will open in phases.
In other tourism-related news, the island is poised to reinstate a $35 airport-development tax and increase the departure tax from $25 to $38. The new fees, which will be included in the cost of airline tickets, will be used "to achieve government fiscal and socioeconomic development objectives, including the much-needed improvements to St. Lucia's airport," according to the St. Lucia Tourist Board.
Meeting Hotels: Among the properties along Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach are the 375-room Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; 343-room Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa; 295-room Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort; 285-room Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman, and 266-room Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa.
To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.
Airport Transit: Owen Roberts International Airport, about 15 minutes from Grand Cayman Island resorts. Transfer cost by taxi, $20
Taxes: Room tax, 13%; sales tax, none; total tax on hotel rooms, 13%
Group Venue: The Grand Old House on the old Petra Plantation is an elegant venue for off-site dining. The vintage 1908 restaurant serves local cuisine and has a panoramic waterfront terrace plus four private rooms, the largest of which can accommodate up to 80 people. (345) 949-9333
Contact: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, (212) 889-9009