Excitement Builds for CARIFTA Games 2011

You can already feel the excitement starting to build across the Caribbean as we look forward to the 2011 LIME CARIFTA games.  The games will be held on the 23rd to 25th April at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

CARIFTA is celebrating its 40th anniversary and I’m sure the organizers are hoping for some bright new medal hopefuls from the 600 or more young athletes who will be competing.  The LIME CARIFTA games has long been the breeding ground for many world class athletes such as Usain Bolt and Darrel Brown to name just a couple and with the 2012 Olympics just around  round the corner I’m sure many will be pushing hard to beat their personal bests.

The Games will provide a much needed boost to the economy in Montego Bay as travelling with the 600+ athletes will be their coaches plus family and friends who will be supporting them, this will mean a busy time for the hotels and airlines.

LIME became the presenting sponsor for the CARIFTA Games in 2010 partnered with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) to televise the games for the very first time and to provide streaming via the internet.  This delighted Caribbean athletic fans who were able to watch the games on TV or via the internet; this is helping to elevate the Games right across the Caribbean region as well as the rest of the world.  A popular feature of the streaming was an online blog where viewers could comment on the events taking place.  Again this year the games will be aired but in partnership withTVJ, in Jamaica who will be providing live satellite feeds for the rest of the region and they will be streamed via the LIME website www.lime.com and for LIME mobile customers in Jamaica they will be able to watch all the action as it happens via their mobile phone.

Across the Caribbean wherever LIME operates a texting competition is taking place, in each country one lucky winner will win a state of the art Galaxy Tab, a super fast tablet that’s the ultimate entertainment hub which features two cameras both front and back with a seamless HD video and Flash playback for a rich entertainment experience.  Plus there is the opportunity to win US$5,000 for a school of their choice, to enter text the word “GOLD” to LIME (5463).  Again this is just one more way LIME is supporting local communities.

Sheldon Keens-Douglas, Regional Head of Sponsorship said “LIME is looking forward to an exciting Games this year and for the second year running LIME will be working with TVJ to televise the games across the Caribbean.  In addition by streaming the games via our website family and friends who live in the Diaspora will also be able to experience all the fun, excitement and exhilaration right as it happens via the Internet.”

Jamaica’s Christian Heritage Packaged and Promoted

Cathedral in Spanish Town Jamaica. Faith-based tourism is important to Great Huts. Photo Credit: Jim Smith - courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board

PORT ANTONIO, Jamaica – The rich Christian heritage of Jamaica is being packaged and promoted to the faith traveler by the Great Huts resort in Port Antonio.

Medical practitioner and resort owner Dr. Paul Rhodes said in addition to packages tailored for Jewish travelers, Great Huts hotel is partnering with Olde Jamaica Tours to offer visitors an eight-night itinerary dubbed “Church Treasures of Jamaica: A Spiritual, Historic and Architectural Journey.”

Faith-based tourism is important to Great Huts.

Photo Credit: Jim Smith – courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board

Dr. Rhodes, a pioneer in the Caribbean faith tourism business, asserted the island “has more churches per square mile than any destination in the world, which naturally positions Jamaica as a marquee destination for faith-based tourism.”

The value-oriented, eight night packages to Kingston and Port Antonio feature experienced guide Juliet Gordon of Olde Jamaica Tours and start at US$700 per person and include accommodations at the storied Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, the Great Huts experience, guided tours, select meals, entertainment and taxes. Airfare is additional.

The Saturday through Sunday itineraries are being offered this year on April 9-17, April 30-May 8, June 11-19, July 23-31, August 13-21, September 3-11 and Oct 1-9.

Olde Jamaica Tours offers special tour packages designed for relaxation while sharing with the visitor the rich history and culture of Jamaica. The tours take guests to historical sites in Jamaica, including churches and other culturally significant spots.

Great Huts and Olde Jamaica Tours have teamed to host educational talks with Christian and cultural experts, tours of the island’s diverse churches as well as the Jewish Synagogue, Marcus Garvey’s Liberty Hall, Secret Garden (a monument to Jamaica’s slain children), and National Heroes Park.

Also included in the visit is an opportunity for visitors to engage in community service, join prayers with the elders of the Port Antonio Infirmary, and encourage those being served at the Port Antonio Homeless Shelter and Rehab Centre.

With Jamaica’s diverse culture, virtually every faith and tradition has a presence on the island. This history has endowed Jamaica with a tolerant and welcoming spirit that is best defined by the nation’s motto: “Out of Many, One People”.

For further information, contact Dr. Paul Rhodes at + 1 876 350-0077, email info@GreatHuts.com or visit www.GreatHuts.com.

Juliet Gordon of Olde Jamaica Tours can be reached at + 1 876 362-9319 or by visiting www.oldejamaicatours.com.

About Great Huts

Built upon a four-plus acre plateau atop the northeast point of the Jamaican coast, Great Huts is an intimate vacation village of comfortably furnished dwellings, including Wi-Fi in communal areas, expansive cliff side views with dining areas, hammocks everywhere, a lovely beach and a sea pool. Activities range from total relaxation and quiet water sports to dramatic day trips such as valley hiking, river rafting, mountain climbing or a visit to a Kingston museum, gallery or historical/ spiritual attraction.

For further information, visit www.GreatHuts.com.

Jamaican hotel offers Spring Breakers educational alternative

PORT ANTONIO, Jamaica  – Instead of suffering painful hangovers and hopping from one party to another, US college students with an interest in Jewish history and Afro-Caribbean culture can spend their Spring Break feeding their minds while having fun in the sun.

The popular Great Huts eco-themed resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica is offering students a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience Jamaica’s culture, learn about the Jewish Diaspora in the Caribbean while immersed in an environment reflecting the beauty, strength and artistic culture of West Africa and the Caribbean.

Dr. Paul Rhodes, proprietor of Great Huts, explains the special value-oriented package for students, dubbed “Jamaica Shalom: Tikun Olam”, will “allow them to shape their world view, remain intellectually active while relaxing in one of the region’s most alluring vacation spots.”

Seven night accommodations start at US$600 and are available for student-only travel from March 6-13 or March 13-20, 2011. Airfare is additional.

“At Great Huts we offer an ecological experience in an Afro and Judaic themed environment,” said Dr. Rhodes, a medical doctor and community volunteer who reported the team at Great Huts developed an itinerary “for students to experience Jamaica in a unique way while engaged in meaningful discussions and community service.”

The newest addition to faith-based tourism, Great Huts’ Spring Break adventure caters to students and individuals who are interested in more than just sun, sea and sand. Students experience a Sabbath Service at the Kingston synagogue, Shaare Shalom; lectures on Jewish history in Jamaica, led by famed Jewish-Jamaican historian Ainsley Henriques; and community service at a Port Antonio homeless shelter and a home for the elderly.

The eco-tour combines trips to Moore Town, home of the Eastern Maroons, and visits to the Bob Marley museum, while exploring other unique landmarks in Port Antonio and Jamaica’s capital, Kingston.

Dubbed “Paradise on the Edge”, the eco-themed hotel, which offers a cliff, forest and beach experience on property, is an attractive alternative to young college students who want to spend their Spring Break engaged in a wholesome, educational and active Jamaican setting.

For further information, call + 1 876 350-0077 or email drpaulshalom@yahoo.com.

About Great Huts

Built upon a four-plus acre plateau atop the northeast point of the Jamaican coast, Great Huts is an intimate vacation village of comfortably furnished dwellings, including Wi-Fi in communal areas, expansive cliff side views with dining areas, hammocks everywhere, a lovely beach and a sea pool. Activities range from total relaxation and quiet water sports to dramatic day trips such as valley hiking, river rafting, mountain climbing or a visit to a Kingston museum, gallery or historical/ spiritual attraction.

For further information, visit www.greathuts.com.

Caribbean Marketplace 2011 attendance rebounds

CHTA President Josef Forstmayr

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Marketplace 2011 had the third largest attendance over the past decade with 1,518 delegates as compared to 1,362 in 2010 and an increase in the number of crucial buyer companies by 22% and buyer delegates by 15%, up from 101 and 268 respectively in 2010.  The number of scheduled appointments totaled 11,880 over the two-day event as compared to 11,774 in 2010.

Attendees felt that the 22% increasein the wholesaler buyer companies was an indication that interest in vacations to the Caribbean was returning and Marketplace 2011 would result in an increase in packages, promotions and ultimately bookings to the region.

The overall mood of delegates at Caribbean Marketplace 2011 was high from the very start as delegates listened to CHTA President Josef Forstmayr remind everyone: “All of us have felt the impact of the economic crisis over the past two years, but we have much reason to be optimistic. Right now at Marketplace 2011, we have more buyers that have come to meet with hotels and tourist offices than last year, an indication that business is coming back.”

He also urged all delegates to “recognize that tourism is the key to economic development in the Caribbean.  Tourism and its ability to compete globally has in all but a few Caribbean nations become the essential provider of employment and national income; and by extension a principal provider of taxes that pay for voters’ expectations of everything from education to health care to roads.

“This is why CHTA launched the Tourism Is Key advocacy campaign underlining the importance of travel and tourism to our Caribbean economies.

“The campaign targets a broad audience from Caribbean Heads of State across the region to Caribbean citizens in every destination.

“We all need to understand that whether or not anyone works directly in the tourism areas, every tourist dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society.

“I urge all of you here today to assist us in our lobbying efforts and to help us to achieve four main goals:

“1. Strong advocacy of the tourism industry with government and the general public.

“2. Faster regional integration and the removal of barriers such as visas, excessive entry formalities and bureaucracy.  This will also enable Caribbean nationals to fuel the tourism growth in neighboring destinations.

“3. Better and more affordable airline access with less regulation throughout the region. We know that this is something you all want because it would make your jobs easier to package, promote and sell our island destinations.

“4. The creation and launch of a sustainable marketing and promotion fund for the Caribbean. This is more than a decade overdue and we cannot wait any longer.

Forstmayr was followed by an impassioned speech from Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding, who urged the Caribbean region “to continue its united action to fight the decision of the United Kingdom to impose the Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax.”  He said “the region was united in its position that this tax is manifestly unjust to the countries of the Caribbean region.”

Varying APD rates are dictated by the classification of worldwide destinations by the UK government, with passengers taking trips to the Caribbean being particularly badly hit.

Mr. Golding said, “several leaders from the region have impressed upon the British government that the tax is not fair and that it needs to be reviewed.”

Mr. Golding said that in handing over the chairmanship of CARICOM to Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, he provided a full brief on all the activities including a detailed update on the efforts that have been made to adjust this increase and he is confident that CARICOM will continue to make representation to the British government.

“Going to London and pleading are not the only options we have,” Mr. Golding noted.  He said he had “consulted widely and there are other options that the Caribbean may have to consider in tackling something that is not just unfair and unjust but is in conflict with established global rules of tourism.”

He noted that while he could not speak for other Caribbean countries on the matter and while it would be premature to speak on the position that the Government of Jamaica will take, “there is no option that is off the table.  We are going to secure justice in this matter one way or the other,” Mr. Golding added.

Prior to the opening of Caribbean Marketplace 2011, CHTA held vital committee and Board of Directors meetings to discuss crucial issues facing the hospitality and tourism industry in the region and agreed to create a new plan of action for a regional marketing campaign in conjunction with the Caribbean Tourism Organization.  There were also meetings with the reconstituted Chain Hotels Forum to secure the involvement of prominent worldwide hotel companies in the region.

Next year, Caribbean Marketplace 2012 will take place Jan. 22 – 24, 2012 at the Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

About The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) facilitates the full potential of the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry by serving members’ needs and building partnerships in a socially responsible and sustainable manner.  CHTA was founded in 1962; it is the voice of the Caribbean hospitality industry for the development of the region in the highly competitive and sophisticated environment of international tourism. Today, tourism is widely recognized as a pivotal industry in the economy of the region – and CHTA functions as the common denominator for this industry in a region of diverse nationalities, languages and styles, identifying mutual problems and marshalling the resources of the active and allied members to devise solutions. CHTA represents all facets of the hospitality industry with more than 725 member hotels and 525 allied members.

For more information, visit http://www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.  Follow CHTA on Facebook www.Facebook.com/CaribbeanHotelandTourismAssociation and Twitter www.Twitter.com/CHTAFeeds.

Jamaican Jazz Great Monty Alexander’s Reflections on Nat King Cole and Sinatra

NEW YORK, NY – Renowned Jamaican-born jazz pianist, Monty Alexander, still remembers when he first saw the legendary Nat King Cole and  met Frank Sinatra. Cole’s musical impact on the younger Monty and his later musical experiences with Sinatra will come in to focus this month when Alexander reflects on both icons of America’s great songbook at a New York City show.

Alexander, Jamaica’s acclaimed Commander of Distinction, will present his “King Cole and Mr. S” reflections from November 23-25th at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. Show times for the three night shows will be at 8:30 and 11 p.m., respectively.

Accompanying Alexander will be his phenomenal group of Robert Thomas, Jr. on hand drums; Lorin Cohen on bass; Winard Harper on drums and Yotam Silberstein on guitar. The shows will be made even more special this fall season with the addition of a brilliant vocalist James De Frances, who is set to belt out favorites from both Cole and Sinatra to the accompaniment of Alexander and his ensemble.

Of course Alexander will also pay tribute to his roots by including some of his upbeat reggae-themed pieces for patrons attending the shows.

Alexander, who has the distinction of being named one of the greatest piano players in jazz, still remembers seeing Cole for the first time at age 12 at a theater in his native Jamaica, and being overtaken by the spirit of the singer and his music.

It is that love, knowledge and dedication to the memory of Cole that would filter back to Cole’s daughter, Natalie, who invited him to assist her on the “Unforgettable” album.

The Sinatra connection was a lot more by chance. The largely self-taught pianist was playing in a Miami bar in his teens that was visited by Sinatra and his group of friends, including his right hand man, Jilly Rizzo. When Alexander ended his set he was approached by Rizzo and the legendary singer who invited him to play at the New York bistro, Jilly’s. Alexander moved to New York where he played on and off for several years, accompanying ‘Ole Blue Eyes’ on various occasions.

“The kid is a gas,” is how Sinatra, using the lingo at the time for “superb,” once described Alexander.

The Kingston-born musician has also performed with the likes of Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Bill Cosby, Bobby McFerrin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and on the “Concrete Jungle, The Music of Bob Marley collection,” over his five decade-long career.

He has recorded over 60 albums to date and is set to mark his 50th year in the music industry with a new album next year.  His 1976 Montreux (Switzerland) Jazz Festival performance with drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist John Clayton has become one of the most celebrated live recordings in contemporary jazz. Alexander’s most recent albums on the Telarc label include trio sessions, such as “Impressions in Blue,” and the live concert recording “Goin’ Yard.” His release on Chesky is “Calypso Blues” is a tribute to his hero Nat Cole.

In August 2000, the Jamaican government awarded Alexander the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction for outstanding services to Jamaica as a worldwide music ambassador.

Tickets for Alexander’s shows on Tuesday-Thursday, November 23-25 at Birdland are $30 and $40, respectively and can be purchased by logging on to http://www.birdlandjazz.com/ or by calling (212) 581-3080.

For more on Jamaica’s greatest jazz pianist and his music visit www.montyalexander.com.