Article repost from Caribbean Journal
Author: Alexander Britell
This year was not without its challenges in the Caribbean.
But in the face of overwhelming adversity, the Caribbean showed its toughness and resilience.
It’s something that’s eminently clear, as hard-hit islands quickly recover, with most already welcoming back travelers, from the British Virgin Islands to the US Virgin Islands to St Barth.
And let this be a reminder: the vast, vast majority of the Caribbean is open for business, and if you haven’t already made your return, it’s time to start planning it.
It’s also important to note that, before this fall’s storms, Caribbean travel was having a banner year, and there was much to cheer across the region, from surging arrivals in a host of destinations to continued hotel development and creativity.
Caribbean Journal’s annual Caribbean Travel Awards celebrates the best in Caribbean travel, as chosen by the editorial team of the world’s leading Caribbean travel publication.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners.
New All-Inclusive of the Year: Secrets Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
It’s no secret thatApple Leisure Group’s AMResorts has been the fastest-growing hotel company in the Caribbean — and its new flagship resort in the Dominican Republic’s enclave of Cap Cana shows why. This simply beautiful resort on the stunning Juanillo Beach combines all of the brand’s signature inclusions with a new level of luxury feel.
Caribbean Destination of the Year: Grenada
Always the most-competitive category in the Caribbean Travel Awards, the Caribbean Destination of the Year honors a destination that combines strong tourism statistics, creative marketing and, most importantly, the “x factor” that has the travel world buzzing. This year, it’s Grenada, thanks to one of the fastest growth rates in the Caribbean, a surge in hotel development (with properties like the Kimpton Kawana Bay and Silversands in the pipeline) and a new branding push to bring travelers to a place that has long been one of the Caribbean’s most underrated destinations.
Caribbean Hotel of the Year: Round Hill, Jamaica
As we’ve said in these pages before, the word “luxury” has a unique identity in the Caribbean — it requires an extra level of authenticity, of personality, an even greater emphasis on the natural environment and the local community. No hotel in the Caribbean better exemplifies the idea of Caribbean luxury than Jamaica’s Round HIll, a truly magical property just outside Montego Bay that expertly blends impeccable service, inspired design (part-owner Ralph Lauren designed the guest rooms), ultra-local cuisine and, most importantly, a soul.
Small Hotel of the Year: Valentines Resort and Marina, Harbour Island, Bahamas
This small hotel on Harbour Island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas achieves a difficult feat: combining a real, local feel with the amenities and quality of a modern, cutting-edge resort. On an island as historic and charming as Harbour Island, it’s even more difficult. But that’s just what the endlessly creative Valentines has done, with some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful guest rooms married to a vibrant, village-style layout.
New Hotel of the Year: Park Hyatt St Kitts
It’s hard to think of a more significant hotel opening in the Caribbean in years than the debut of the Park Hyatt St Kitts. This world-class property, set on the southeastern peninsula of St Kitts, is the first Caribbean hotel for the Park Hyatt Brand. And this 126-room hotel, has not only immediately made the island of St Kitts into a new global destination, it also sets a new standard for Caribbean hotel design and luxury.
All-Inclusive of the Year: Palm Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines
This property has long been one of the Caribbean’s great castaway-style oases, a private island resort with spectacular vistas and a deep connection to the natural environment. It’s also an all-inclusive. Because Palm Island is a great example of what an all-inclusive resort can be — an authentic, boutique, luxurious hideaway that combines the pleasure of private-island seclusion with the comfort of an all-inclusive.
Caribbean Hotelier of the Year: Ewald Biemans, Aruba
It isn’t easy to set yourself apart in a hotel market like Aruba, let alone the Caribbean, but that’s exactly what Ewald Biemans has been doing for decades. Biemans, the owner and managing director of the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort on Eagle Beach in Aruba, has long set a standard for hotel innovation, from an emphasis on technology to a seriously forward-thinking commitment to being green. Biemans’ Bucuti & Tara is an example of exquisite hotel management and design to the rest of the Caribbean. And it’s a testament to his vision.
Caribbean Tourism Minister of the Year: Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica
Caribbean Tourism Director of the Year: Patricia Maher, CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority
No one has had a greater impact on Grenada’s aforementioned tourism renaissance than Maher, who was appointed to the role in 2016 and has helped steward the destination’s new brand identity and tourism success. Maher’s innovative thinking and creative ideas have helped turn an island long off the tourism radar into one of the region’s hottest places to visit.
Luxury Destination of the Year: Barbados
From the new outpost of Nikki Beach to a transformation at The House, the island of Barbados continues to set a standard for luxury in the Caribbean, building on a foundation that includes everything from the world-famous Sandy Lane to one of the Caribbean capitals of fine dining.
Innovative Destination of the Year: Antigua
If there is a new capital of tourism investment in the Caribbean, it is most certainly Antigua and Barbuda, which has been attracting more new hotel deals and projects per capita than any other destination in the Caribbean, both major brands and new luxury developments. But Antigua and Barbuda also wins plaudits for its innovative, rapid response to Hurricane Irma. Even as Barbuda was still reeling from Irma, Antigua’s tourism officials quickly plotted their response to the storm, immediately jumping back into business, emphasizing its activity and showing the world just how resilient the Caribbean is. It’s the kind of innovation that doesn’t just build hotels — it rebuilds islands.
Caribbean Spa of the Year
Jamaica’s new Jewel Grande turned heads with its design when it opened its doors in Montego Bay earlier this fall, but its crown jewel is almost certainly its 30,000-square-foot Grande Spa, inspired by an Italian villa, with 14 treatments, two couple’s suites and two VIP suites. Led by “Reggaelates” founder Sienna Creasy, it’s a new kind of spa for the Caribbean — and as good as you’ll find, well, anywhere.
Caribbean Restaurant of the Year: Baoase Culinary Beach Restaurant
Caribbean Journal scours the region each year for its list of the 50 Best Restaurants in the Caribbean (the 2017 edition of which will be released in a few weeks). But every year, one restaurant comes out on top. And this year, it’s the magnificent Baoase Culinary Beach Restaurant at the Baoase Luxury Resort in Curaçao, an eatery that combines an intoxicating toes-in-the-sand setting to marvelously creative international cuisine and impeccable service.
Caribbean Chef of the Year: Erwin Husken, Screaming Eagle, Aruba
Long the greatest restaurant in Aruba, Screaming Eagle continues to set a standard for fine dining in the Caribbean, and that’s a direct credit to this year’s Caribbean Chef of the Year, the uber-talented Erwin Husken, whose meticulous preparation and emphasis on world-class sourcing has turned his restaurant into a Mecca for foodies the world over.
Caribbean Bar of the Year: 25 Quarter, St Barth
The moment you walk into the 25 Quarter Bar in St Barth, you know there isn’t anywhere like it in the Caribbean. Proprietaire Christopher Davis’ Gustavia institution has the largest selection of both bourbon and rum in the Caribbean, and it seems it’s just getting started. That’s joined by regular spirits master classes, inspired street-food-style cuisine and cutting-edge mixology. And it isn’t just the Caribbean bar of the year — it’s one of the best bars in the world.
Caribbean Bartender of the Year: Kendie Williams, Nevis
A great cocktail isn’t just about ingredients and preparation. It’s about style and it’s about personality. But the bartender who combines all of those things, however, well, really has something. That’s certainly the case with Kendie Williams, chief mixologist at the Four Seasons Nevis Resort, who has one of the more inspired cocktail programs in the region right now.
Caribbean Airline of the Year: interCaribbean Airways
There are few things harder on earth than running an airline in the Caribbean. That’s what makes the continued growth of Turks and Caicos-based interCaribbean Airways just so impressive. This carrier has been embarking on a massive expansion push around the region, from Cuba to the British Virgin Islands. It’s a sign that, even in Caribbean aviation, great things are possible. Here’s to what’s next.
Airline of the Year: Delta Air Lines
This was a difficult choice given the rapid growth of the Caribbean flight network. But Delta’s combination of excellent service, on-time departures, quality cabins and a continued commitment to expanding in the Caribbean put it over the top.
Caribbean Airport of the Year: Curaçao International Airport
Caribbean airports are getting better. While some outliers remain, the trend in the Caribbean is up, and that means better immigration experiences, better lounges and better service. Curaçao International Airport is right at the forefront of that trend, managing to run a very high-level of quality and service even as it works on a significant transformation project.