With demand higher than in 2019, now’s the time to promote a Caribbean break. Adam Shaw offers a guide to some of the key new flights and openings
With airlines boosting capacity, new hotels being built and cruise lines debuting ships in the region, Caribbean tourism is back – and even bigger than before.
Visitor numbers to the Caribbean this year are on course to be 10% higher than in 2019, and the outlook from airlines is similarly positive, with British Airways launching a raft of new routes and Virgin Atlantic reporting an upturn in bookings on existing routes.
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: “Virgin Atlantic has seen forward bookings for its Caribbean destinations increase by 7% week on week, with services from Heathrow to Barbados, Antigua, and Nassau in the Bahamas, doing well.
“Bookings for the start of 2023 are looking increasingly strong, ahead of figures from three years ago.” So for clients who are ready to bask on the Caribbean’s white-sand beaches, dive back into its bathwater-warm waters and indulge in a few rum-based cocktails, here’s where to book.
Barbados has always been a popular destination for Brits. As Cheryl Carter, Barbados Tourism’s director for UK and Ireland, explains, there is “clear demand” for people visiting the island, with airlines adding more seats this winter.
British Airways will operate extra flights from Gatwick, flying five times a week, while Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic are restarting their Manchester to Bridgetown routes.
Those with an interest in horticulture can book onto Brightwater Holidays’ Gardens of Barbados tour, which was added to its long-haul collection for 2023.
The laid-back trip takes in some of the island’s most enchanting gardens, including the Andromeda Botanical Garden, with its resident monkeys, as well as a visit to the historical George Washington House and a scenic ride on the heritage railway. Prices start at £2,995 with departures on February 1, June 7, and October, 2023.
Donovan White, director of tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board, is pushing Jamaica’s ‘Come Back’ campaign, which urges travellers to rediscover values that might have been lost over the past three years.
White says: “Tourism has been a main driver of Jamaica’s post-pandemic recovery. The hotel and restaurant subsector has grown by 55.4% compared with the corresponding period in 2021 and the length of stay is back to 2019’s average of 7.9 nights.”
Tui will operate additional flights to Jamaica from Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester by next summer. In terms of hotels, the ROK opened in downtown Kingston during the summer, while Sandals has plans for three new resorts on the island: Beaches Runaway Bay, Sandals Royal Dunn’s River, and Sandals Dunn’s River. The last of these is on sale now and set to open on May 24, 2023.
In Grenada, one of the island’s top luxury hotels – Calabash – reopened on October 1, following a multimillion-dollar revamp. This included work to improve energy efficiency and water conservation, as well as upgrades to the spa, restaurants, reception area and piano lounge.
Clients can book onto Audley Travel’s Highlights of Grenada & Saint Lucia tour, which includes a stay at Calabash, as well as the opportunity to learn about Grenada’s vibrant spice history and discover the less-travelled northern part of the island. Prices start at £6,100 per person for the 15-day tour.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Renovations are also planned at the Petit St Vincent resort on a private island located 40 miles south of Union Island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It reopened earlier this month under new owner Tanja Ellis, while a new general manager has also been appointed.
Ellis says: “I’ve long admired Petit St Vincent as one of the Caribbean’s most authentic and truly classic resorts, with a reputation among travellers in-the-know as one of the world’s best hideaways.”
Club Med relaunched its Columbus Isle all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas in October, after closing during the pandemic. Clients can take advantage of a Mediterranean-inspired menu at La Pinta, as well as plant-based items at main restaurant Christopher’s. A new ‘Wellness Fusion’ programme is also being introduced, which includes yoga sessions, moonlight massages and holistic spa treatments.
Atlantis Paradise Island in Nassau is set to open a new Italian restaurant next year. Michelin-starred chef Michael White will lead Paranza, with a focus on seafood.
White joins two other acclaimed chefs with restaurants at the property – Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu) and José Andrés (Fish) – making it the only resort in the Caribbean with three Michelin-starred chefs.
Antigua and Barbuda
Colin C James, chief executive of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, points out there has been a 140% increase in UK visitors to Antigua and Barbuda compared with this time last year, while it is on course to supersede visitor numbers reported in 2019, which was “one of the best years overall for the destination”.
The Nobu Barbuda Inn – a project spearheaded by Robert De Niro – is scheduled to open next year, while Antigua’s Jolly Beach Hotel is also planning to reopen hundreds of rooms on December 1 following renovations.
The budget friendly all-inclusive resort, which offers stays from £119 per night as part of its grand reopening sale, will appeal to those looking for some more affordable winter sun. Set among 40 acres of lush tropical gardens by a stunning white-sand beach, it is the largest resort on the island.
The adult-only Temptation Miches and Temptation Grand Miches Resort in the Dominican Republic is another property that reopened its doors last month.
With 496 rooms across both sites – 382 suites at Temptation Miches and 114 at the more luxury Temptation Grand – the resort offers guests easy access to pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, as well as Temptation’s usual hedonistic offering.
Saint Lucia has been a longstanding favourite with couples, but the island has also seen an increase in extended family stays, as well as a rise in solo traveller bookings due to tailored partnerships with hotels such as BodyHoliday and Anse Chastanet.
Zoetry Marigot Bay, which has been remarketed as a luxury all-inclusive, reopens in December. Scott Dunn is offering seven nights from £1,700 per person with special early summer booking offers available.
Tourism is growing and thriving. This year to date has seen record-breaking visitor arrivals and a significant number of tourism developments. We have a lot to look forward to for 2023
Patricia Charley-Leon, director of UK and Europe at the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, says: “Tourism is growing and thriving. This year to date has seen record-breaking visitor arrivals, the return of events, and a significant number of tourism developments. We have a lot to look forward to for 2023.”
The Saint Lucia Carnival is set for July 12-19, 2023, while the island’s Jazz and Arts Festival returns from May 5-14, 2023.
British Airways has announced a raft of new options to the Caribbean. From March 26, 2023, it will offer flights to Oranjestad in Aruba via Antigua twice a week and, on the same day, launches direct flights to Bermuda and Trinidad’s Port of Spain.
A day later, travellers will be able to take advantage of twice-weekly flights to Georgetown in Guyana via Saint Lucia. The airline will also operate an additional direct flight to the Cayman Islands for the 2023 summer season, bringing it up to five services a week from Heathrow.
On the water
Royal Caribbean saw a record number of bookings in a single day when reservations opened on October 20 for its new ship Icon of the Seas. Icon will sail seven-night eastern and western Caribbean voyages departing from Miami, visiting destinations including Philipsburg, St Maarten, and Basseterre, St Kitts.
Celebrity Cruises’ new ship Celebrity Ascent is also due to debut in the islands in December 2023, with its maiden voyage calling at Philipsburg in St Maarten, Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.
Ask the operator
Ruth Venn, director of sales, P&O Cruises
“The Caribbean remains extremely popular with our guests, with each island offering its own different vibe and the opportunity for winter sun.
“From the beaches of Barbados where the local restaurants have the freshest Bajan delicacies to delicious rum punch cocktails in Antigua with stunning sea views, there is nowhere else that offers the distinct, laid-back charm and warmth of a holiday to the Caribbean.
“On our newest ship Arvia, arriving in December, we’ve introduced new Caribbean ports of call such as La Romana in the Dominican Republic, exciting new shore experiences including an open-air dune buggy ride through the wilds of the Dominican countryside and more overnight and late calls for guests to maximise their time on shore.”
PICTURES: Shutterstock/Valentin Valkov; James Robinson
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