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The Host With the Most: Jamaica Welcomes Caribbean Marketplace

By Melanie Reffes

Weddings at Excellence Oyster Bay in Trelawny, Jamaica. Photo Credit Excellence Resorts

Welcoming movers and shakers from across the region, Caribbean Travel Marketplace was held this year in Montego Bay. Hosted by Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) in collaboration with Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism, Jamaica Tourist Board and Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, the largest tourism event in the Caribbean welcomed hospitality professionals from 20 countries.

Jamaica hosted Caribbean Marketplace this year at the Montego Bay Convention Center. Photo Credit JTB

Showcasing the regions many assets, the romance market was top of mind as resorts, attractions, spas and restaurants wooed the many focussed on destination weddings and honeymoons. “What visitors to the Caribbean are seeking is a personal connection with our people, genuine experience and an opportunity to feel that being here makes a positive difference,” said Patricia Affonso-Dass, president, CHTA.

Irie in Jamaica

Splashy Grand Opening in Montego Bay at the S Hotel Jamaica. Photo Credit Melanie Reffes

With a new tag line “One Love”, Jamaica is treasured as a destination wedding locale and a hot spot for honeymooners. “Last year, our island nation welcomed more than 4.3 million visitors from around the world,” said Hon. Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister, “we are extremely pleased to have this opportunity, as host of Caribbean Travel Marketplace, to showcase the many wonderful natural, social, and cultural resources that Jamaica has to offer.” Beds for heads are growing by leaps and bounds with 7,500 new rooms in the pipeline including up to 1,500 set to open this year. Airlift is also on the rise with new daily Delta flights from JFK in New York to Kingston and Spirit Air from Detroit to Montego Bay.

Actress Katherine Hepburn was a fan of Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay. Photo Credit Slim Aarons

New on the Hip Strip in Montego Bay, S Hotel Jamaica is away from the bustle of the resort-lined beaches on the northwest coast. Island cool with 120-rooms and suites, the hip hotel overlooks Doctor’s Cave Beach where Katherine Hepburn frequented during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Walking distance to clubs, shopping and sprinter Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records restaurant, standouts include a beachfront pool, spa, Deck Bar and Lounge and a replica of Katherine Hepburn’s car that greets guests upon arrival.

A replica of the car driven by Katherine Hepburn greets guests at the S Hotel Jamaica in Montego Bay. Photo Credit S Hotel

“We’re creating a new kind of hotel in Montego Bay,” said owner Chris Issa during the splashy Grand Opening” one that infuses modern Jamaican culture balanced with the sophistication of an urban hotel and the laidback style of a beach resort.” S Hotel welcomes weddings and honeymooners and is the second hotel from Jamaican entrepreneur Chris Issa, owner of Crissa Hotels that includes Spanish Court Hotel and Spanish Court Worthington wedding venue in Kingston.

Adults-only in Trelawny , Excellence Oyster Bay is the newest resort to open in Jamaica. Photo Credit Excellence Resorts

On a northwest coast peninsula, Excellence Oyster Bay is a new all-inclusive for adults-only. Upscale in suites with pools, the sprawling beachfront hits the bullseye for newlyweds with 24-hour room service, seaview massages, 3 pools and 20 bars, lounges and restaurants. “Luxury is more than a label,” said Luis Elizondo, general manager, “it is who we are every day and every night creating the moments you dream of and memories you will have forever.” Wedding packages include bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, reception, celebration cake and a suite for the bride and groom the night before the wedding.

Romance is in the air at the Skylark Negril Beach Resort. Photo Credit Skylark Negril Beach Resort

For couples looking for a boho wedding, Skylark Negril Beach Resort is the ideal pick. On Seven Mile Beach, the laid-back 28-room hotel is the sister hotel to the upscale Rockhouse also in Negril. “We limit the number of weddings to one per week,” said Paul Salmon, owner, “this is to ensure we deliver a wonderful experience with the dedicated support required for the big day.”

Island Routes honored for excellence in excursions by the World Travel Awards. Photo Credit Island Routes

A favorite of outdoorsy couples, Island Routes was honored by the World Travel Awards for excursion excellence throughout the Caribbean. Offering more than 500 tours, couple-pleasers are the catamaran cruises that skirt the coastline at sunset.

St. Lucia Sizzles

Jade Mountain in St. Lucia is the signature resort for romance. Photo Credit Jade Mountain

Awarded ‘Leading Honeymoon Destination’ in the Caribbean at the World Travel Awards, St. Lucia is on a romance roll. “Our island offers endless experiences like taking in the breathtaking Piton Peaks and Caribbean Sea, it just doesn’t get more romantic than that”, said Tiffany Howard, CEO, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. With the best arrival numbers yet, the island welcomed 1,218,294 visitors in 2018 marking a 10.2% increase over 2017, which was also a record-setting year for the island. American Airlines re-launched daily nonstop flights from Miami International Airport to Hewanorra International Airport and resumed weekly flights from Philadelphia.

In St. Lucia, views at Jade Mountain salute the majestic Piton Peaks. Photo Credit Jade Mountain

Worth the splurge, Jade Mountain is an Olympian-sized treat for couples going the distance. Designed by owner and architect Nick Troubetzkoy, the showpiece suites are sweeping spaces with nighttime illuminating floating platforms that are called mere infinity pools at other resorts, unapologetically sinful bathrooms and the signature fourth wall that opens to the Piton Peaks and the Caribbean Sea. Check into a Galaxy Sanctuary with soaring 15-feet ceilings and a ginormous infinity-edge pool and kick-start a honeymoon with the package aptly named ‘Total Romance ‘that includes a bottle of French bubbly, tours of the Diamond Mineral Baths, snorkeling trips, massages, jungle biking, yacht sails, meals, drinks and a $500.00 certificate for a return visit.

Bay Gardens Resorts in St. Lucia offers Magic Moments Wedding packages. Photo Credit Bay Gardens

In Rodney Bay Village, Bay Gardens Resorts is a collection of 5 locally-owned hotels; Bay Gardens Inn, Bay Gardens Hotel, Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, Bay Gardens Marina Haven and Bay Gardens Waters Edge Villas. Close to 40 restaurants, duty-free shopping, Treasure Bay Casino and Rodney Bay Marina, the affordable hotels also offer gratis access to the Bay Gardens’ Splash Island Water Park. Ideal for couples, the villas are surrounded by fragrant gardens and scenic vistas of the Rodney Bay Marina. “These villas represent our top tier,” said Joyce Destang, managing director, “each has 4 bedrooms, swimming pool and a deck big enough for a special occasion.” Wedding packages like ‘Magic Moments’ include couple must-haves from champagne breakfast in bed to the personalized services of a wedding planner.

Antigua on a Roll

Antigua is on a tourism roll with Shirley Heights one of the most photographed on the island. Photo Credit Antigua Dept Tourism

Setting robust records, the sister islands hosted 1.1 million visitors last year; more than arrived the year previous. Delta launched weekly flights from New York’s JFK International Airport and American Airlines added a second flight from Miami. “Another 15 properties representing 2,535 rooms are slated to launch by 2021,” said Colin C. James, CEO, Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority, “this list includes the Marriott, Rosewood, Best Western and Hilton Waldorf Astoria and the all-inclusive Royalton Antigua opening in June.”

Gorgeous in Grenada

In Grenada, Spice Island Beach Resort is an elegant all-inclusive with 64 suites. Photo Credit SIBR

The Spice Island is no longer a hidden gem with 528,077 visitor arrivals in 2018. A boatload of updates make for easy travel like new American Airlines flights from Miami, 300-room Royalton Grenada to open later this year and the upscale Kimpton Kawana Bay to debut in 2020. Ideal for weddings, Pier 57 is new on the water’s edge north of the capital city St. George’s. Mount Hartman Bay Estate is couple-cozy in 16 rooms, Green Roof Inn added a sea-front yoga pavilion and dinghy dock for day trips to Tobago Cays and Silversands Grenada impresses with 43 suites and a Cigar and Rum Bar. A leader in luxury, Spice Island Beach Resort is the proud recipient of a Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award. Family-owned on Grand Anse Beach, the top-tier AAA five-diamond all-inclusive is twosome-perfection in 64 elegant suites including 3 with pools that open to the sea. “The TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award is perhaps the greatest honour of all as it comes directly from our guests,” said Sir Royston Hopkin KCMG, managing director.

For couples who enjoy time away from the beach, Hidden Treasure offers hiking tours through the waterfalls and for twosomes looking for the road-less-traveled, ‘Wondering Soles’ delights with tours away from the more crowded attractions.

Temptations in Turk and Caicos Islands

Villas at The Shore Club in Turks and Caicos Islands are outfitted with private pools. Photo Credit The Shore Club

The Sands at Grace Bay is celebrating a 20 year milestone anniversary aptly named “The Sands Better than Ever Celebration”. A favorite of newlyweds, honeymooners and couples kicking up the mojo, the hotel on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales carries the coveted TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Multi-bedroom suites are on sale during the spring and summer, Hemingway’s is island-famous for sumptuous Sunday brunches and rubs and scrubs at Spa Tropique are divine. 

Shore Club Villas in Turks & Caicos offer plenty of space for newlyweds. Photo Credit Paradise Photography

For those who like to lie low in the lap of luxury, villas at The Shore Club are the real deal with chic interiors, patios that face Long Bay Beach and a private Chef.

Anguilla Luxury

Anguilla wins top Luxury Award with proud recipient Chantelle Richardson, Antigua Tourist Board, Hon. Cardigan Connor, Tourism Minister and Marie Walker, Director Sales ATB. Photo Credit ATB

On a winning streak, the petite island across the sea from St. Martin received the ‘2018 Luxury Destination of the Year’ award presented by Classic Vacations. “We are thrilled to receive this prestigious award, especially in light of the challenges we faced following the hurricanes and the remarkable comeback we staged,” said Hon. Cardigan Connor, minister tourism.

Villas at Anguilla’s Zemi Beach House Hotel & Spa are privacy perfection for newlyweds. Photo Credit Zemi Beach House Hotel & Spa

The top choice for luxe-seeking couples, Beachfront Villa Suite at Zemi Beach House Hotel & Spa steals the show on Shoal Bay East Beach. Get your Zen on in the Thai House Spa where the Sun Ritual is 2 hours of pure bliss and to toast a special occasion, Rhum Room impresses the ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ rum flight graced with shots of 21-year old Appleton Estate from Jamaica and Mount Gay XO from Barbados.


The Host With the Most: Jamaica Welcomes Caribbean Marketplace