“This is just the beginning,” said Peter Muller, a German native who owns the Hotel Coyamar in Samana, the Dominican Republic. “We’re going to reach a point where it’s no longer worth keeping the airport open.”
In Antigua, where tourism officials tried to lure visitors over the weekend of June 14-15 with a music festival featuring Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers, most of the tickets sold were to locals, festival chairman Alvin Edwards said.
Antigua’s tourism board announced in early June that Delta Airlines would soon launch a direct flight from New York to Antigua. The airline formally announced the flight on June 12.
The U.S. Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico, the region’s main tourism gateway, has offered to reduce low-season airport fees by as much as 45 percent to persuade airlines to reconsider.
Flying against the trend is JetBlue Airways Corp., which plans to add daily flights to Puerto Rico from New York, Orlando and Boston starting this fall, and Virgin Atlantic, whose president, Richard Branson, told The Associated Press that he also might add extra flights from the U.S. to the Caribbean.
“Where things are seriously going wrong is in America,” Branson said. “Virgin America is a great airline; it’s doing very well. We have young planes which are more fuel-efficient than the ones American Airlines has.”
Smaller islands are asking regional carriers such as LIAT and Air Jamaica to increase flights and coordinate schedules to fill gaps left by American, said Chastanet, who is also St. Lucia’s tourism minister.
Some islands also are turning to Europe, where the euro has risen against the dollar, making Caribbean vacations more attractive.
“There’s an opportunity given the strength of the euro,” said Allegra Kean-Moorehead, spokeswoman for the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism department. “It’s a market that has a huge amount of potential.”
Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao in the British Virgin Islands contributed to this story.
Tourism was a pillar of the Haitian economy before decades of violence, political upheaval and bad press during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic overtook its image. More »
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2006 report on human rights in the Dominican Republic, there are over 650,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants living and working in Dominican sugar cane camps known as "bateyes." More »
The annual event, a precursor to the Boston Caribbean Carnival, allows bands to showcase young individual dancers who might otherwise be lost in the crowd. More »