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Martinique Tourism Update #2: Strike Having Little Impact on Vacations.

Award-Winning U.S. Travel Journalists Relate Experience During Feb 4-18 Stay in Martinique

NEW YORK -- Award-winning U.S. travel journalists Victor Block and Fyllis Hockman, both members of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the North American Travel Journalists Association, and Travel Journalists Guild, have spent the past two weeks in Martinique researching new stories. The writers' time in Martinique coincides with the start of the current labor strike on the island, now in its 13th day. What follows is the transcript of a Q+A conducted by the Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA with the journalists via email earlier today.

Q: Has the labor strike in Martinique affected your stay on the island? If so, how?

A: Our two-week stay has been little impacted by the strike. One house-museum that we wished to see was closed because of the strike.

Q: Have you had any trouble getting around the island by cab? Rental car?

A: We have been traveling around in our rental car without problem. However, two times our access to Ste. Anne via one highway was blocked by police, apparently because a very long line of cars had gathered to await the opening of a gas station located on that road that was going to receive a delivery of fuel. Both times, we were able to reach Ste. Anne by another nearby route, which was open. We have seen taxis on the roads but do not know how the number still operating compares with normal.

Q: With reports of widespread gas station closings, how have you managed to maintain gas for your rental car?

A: We have refilled the gas tank in our rental car twice at the Budget car rental office at the airport in Le Lamentin, just outside Fort-de-France. We suggest that anyone planning to rent a car in Martinique during a visit there do so with one of the larger car rental companies, and check whether the local office has a plentiful supply of fuel for its customers as Budget does.

Q: Have you experienced any difficulties getting food, medicines, sundries or other basic supplies?

A: Fortunately, we have not needed any medicines; the shelves of small, local grocery stores where we have shopped at times have short supplies, or have run out of some food items, but they have been replenished within a day or two.

Q: What shops, if any, are open?

A: In our experience, smaller, non-chain family-owned shops and restaurants are open and operating. We have not encountered any restaurants that have been closed due to the strike, but are not aware of the situation in that regard in Fort-de-France.

Q: Have you at any time during your stay felt that you were in danger as a result of the labor strike?

A: No. We have been staying near Ste. Anne on the southern end of the island, and - other than the couple of street closures mentioned above - have not been aware of any activities related to the strike. We have spoken with people waiting in long lines to purchase gas and their mood seemed to us to be bemused and c'est la vie rather than angry or militant. For the most part, day-to-day life for visitors to the island seems to be continuing much as it would be without the strike. As for residents, many are not working and children are not attending school. This has resulted in a kind of long holiday for many island residents - except when they have to line up and wait for fuel for their car.

Q: Have you encountered any attractions or restaurants that are closed due to the strike?

A: Just the one referred to above. That was the sugar plantation home/museum of Josephine, the creole woman who later became the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Q: What advice would you have for anyone slated to travel to Martinique in the next 30 days? Should they postpone their travel plans?

A: Based on our experience, visitors will not be impacted much, if at all, during a visit to Martinique - assuming that conditions do not take a dramatic turn. Recreational activities - kayaking, sailboarding, windsurfing, jet skiing, scuba diving operations, etc. - seem to be in full swing. The very good network of hiking trails remains open. The outstanding beaches are as inviting as ever, and the little cafes that line some of them remain open and serving excellent grilled chicken, ribs, fish, etc. As things now stand, people outside of Fort-de-France, where most visitors to Martinique stay, should experience little or no problem - and, if the strike causes some people to cancel their travel plans, will encounter fewer crowds than might otherwise be here during the high season.

Now in its 13th day, the labor strike in Martinique is having very little impact on the island's tourism sector.

* Martinique's Aime Cesaire International Airport is open and operating normally.

* All hotels and resorts in Martinique are open and accommodating guests.

* All beaches in Martinique are open and remain accessible.

* Car rental companies in Martinique are open and providing fuel to customers.

* Approximately 50% of Martinique's gas stations are open.

* Banks across Martinique are closed, though ATM machines are functioning normally.

* All emergency services (police, fire rescue, ambulance) in Martinique are operating normally.

The Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA will continue to monitor the situation and issue updates as warranted.

About Martinique (www.martinique.org)

The Caribbean island with French flair, The Isle of Flowers, The Rum Capital of the World, The Isle of the Famed Poet (Aime Cesaire) - by any one of its many names Martinique remains one of the most alluring and enchanting destinations in the world; as unforgettable as a summer romance or a first kiss. Named "Best Gourmet Island of the Year 2008" by Caribbean World Magazine, Martinique is an overseas region of France that stirs the passions with distinctive culinary delights, awe-inspiring natural beauty, a rich cultural history, warm smiles, and so much more. Napoleon's bride, Empress Josephine, was born and raised here. The Pompeii of the Caribbean, St. Pierre, is found here. The finest French products, from Chanel fashions to Limoges porcelain, are readily available here. La Route des Rhums, a tour of the world's finest rum distilleries based on France's famed Route des Vins, is offered here. A special place, to be sure, with so much to offer - Martinique c'est magnifique!

For more information, contact the Martinique Promotion Bureau /CMT USA, 825 Third Ave, 29th Floor, New York, NY 10022 - Tel: 212 838 6887 - Fax: 212 838 7855 - Email: info@martinique.org - Web: www.martinique.org.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Feb 18, 2009
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