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Air Canada cancels St. Martin winter flights, Florida battles for Canadian visitors and Singapore Air’s sweet and swanky suites

It was expected. But it’s still a harsh blow.

My friends at Travel Pulse Canada say Air Canada has announced that it’s cancelling its service to St. Martin/Sint Maarten for the remainder of the 2017/18 winter season. The island, a hugely popular winter destination for Canadians, was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. Many resorts are still closed following the hurricane, including the lovely Westin Dawn Beach Resort on the east side of the island.

The Westin Dawn Beach Resort in better days. JIM BYERS PHOTO

It’s not a big issue for Canadians, who have tons of great options in parts of the Caribbean that weren’t hit by Hurricane Irma or by Hurricane Maria. Roughly ninety per cent of Caribbean hotels and resorts are just fine. But for folks on St. Martin, losing those Canadian visitors is an enormous economic blow.

You have to feel awful for folks who live on Caribbean islands devastated by the hurricanes. Tourism is the main source of income for the region, and they can ill afford storms like the ones that recently swept through the area.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization today issued a statement suggesting they’ve significantly lowered their expectations for visits this year. The first half of 2017 saw arrivals increase by a sizable 5.2%, officials said. Canadian visits were up 6.4%.

But now, with Irma and Maria wreaking havoc, they’re expecting only a 1-2% increase in visits for the rest of this year versus 2016.

Speaking at the World Travel Market in London, Dionisio D’Aguilar, chairman of the CTO’s Council of Ministers, said projections by the Caribbean Development Bank show that every one per cent reduction in tourist arrivals could cost $137 million US in lost revenue. That means a drop from five to one per cent growth could cost $548 million US, or more than $650 million CDN.

Like I said; awful news.

FLORIDA FACING UPHILL BATTLE?

Meanwhile, the folks at Skift.com point out that Florida, too, is facing issues.

It’s a nice feature, but the Skift folks don’t seem convinced it’s enough. Neither do I. I went looking for tickets to Fort Lauderdale in early January on the weekend and couldn’t find much for less than $500. I finally found a flight into Miami for $400, but that’s not quite a bargain price.

The Gibson Inn is a fun place to stay in Apalachicola, Florida. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Still, there are great ways to save on a trip to Florida, such as renting a condo or a hotel unit with a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out all the time. If you do like to dine out, you’ll often find great Happy Hour drink and food specials at Florida restaurants. You’ll pay in US dollars, but Florida prices are often a good deal cheaper than Toronto (especially in smaller cities or less swanky parts of big cities like Miami and Tampa). And portions are usually a lot bigger, so you might have enough left over from dinner to make a lunch the next day.

I like to have a view of the water when I stay in Florida, but I’ve also had great hotel stays at places away from the beach, including the fun Meranova B & B in Dunedin, The Hampton Inn and Suites in Venice and the fun Gibson Inn in Apalachicola; a great town in the Florida panhandle.

VERY SWEET SINGAPORE SUITES

Hoo, boy. Anyone see the news items about the new Singapore Airlines suites? They’ve got fully flat beds, a leather-covered recliner, a 32-inch television and more.

If you want, you can combine your unit with another one and have a room with two beds and a pair of recliners. And two TV’s.

The suites are supposed to be available soon on Singapore Airlines’ A380 jumbo jets. USA Today reports that tickets on Singapore’s current suites are priced at$20,000 US and up, depending on the route. Etihad Air has something they call “The Residence” that measures 120 square feet and has two beds and other goodies.

Then again, I enjoyed some United Airlines pretzels on my flight home from Portland, Oregon last week. The seat was cramped, and I didn’t have a bed or a 32-inch TV or a leather recliner. But they were pretty good pretzels.

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