R&R in Turks & Caicos

Those in the know say Washington chose to stay instead at the Amanyara, located on Provo's remote western coast. A weekend lunch at the Asian-influenced resort finds a handful of guests luxuriating in temple-like salas around an infinity pool. The Zen architecture extends to the atmosphere: No one seems to speak above a whisper.

Even surroundings this rarified are not immune to current economic conditions. Through August excluding holidays, the resort is offering free meals when guests book for four nights or more. "The recession has reached into all tiers of society," Amanyara general manager John Vasatka says. "Whether you're staying in a two-star or a five-star hotel, what you want is value."

But what does value mean when rates start around $1,000? At Grace Bay Club — where guests are given a cellphone for a concierge at check-in — it means finding out what each visitor wants, whether it's free meals, extra nights, or spa credits, chief operating officer Nikheel Advanti says. The resort also is promising upgrades when possible for bookings before March 15.

Such individual attention will be necessary in the increasingly competitive market. The Gansevoort Hotel group, known for boutique properties in New York and Miami, will manage Wymara, opening in March. While Molasses Reef, a Lehman Brothers-financed project to be managed by the Ritz Carlton, has shut down, a Mandarin Oriental property on nearby Dellis Cay is slated for a mid-2010 opening.

Provo hasn't reached its peak, Grace Bay Club CEO Mark Durliat says. The number of tourists to Turks & Caicos has jumped from 154,961 in 2002 to 264,887 in 2007. And the country is just starting to have name recognition in wealthy markets such as Texas, New York and West Palm Beach, Durliat says.

"It will be a tough 2009, but I'm as bullish as I've ever been," he says. "This is a blip that we'll have to weather."

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