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Investors Swap Bum Stocks for Sunny Island Trips

A Caribbean hotelier is offering investors stressed out by the financial meltdown a chance to swap their sinking stocks for sun-drenched beach vacations.

Between now and Jan. 31, Elite Island Resorts is accepting reservations for high-end resorts on six islands payable in up to $5,000 worth of stock transactions — with the shares' value rolled back to July 1 pre-meltdown levels. The deal is good for travel through Dec. 20, 2009.

Elite president Steven Heydt said Monday the promotion aims to give jarred investors a break from the bad news on 24-hour cable channels, and to help the company get its slice of dwindling tourism to the Caribbean.

"Traditional methods of doing business are obviously not taking us where we need to go as an economy," Heydt said by phone from company headquarters in Deerfield Beach, Florida. "So I decided that instead of selling travel at a cash price, I would sell travel by changing the currency."

The deal works like this: Say you're holding a bunch of American Express stock, currently $20 a share. For booking purposes, Elite will value it at $40, its level on July 1, so transferring 111 shares plus $5 cash gets you an all-inclusive weeklong stay worth $4,445.

Dewitt Brown, a retired physician from suburban Boston, quickly decided to swap his Merrill Lynch stock for family vacations as soon as he heard about the promotion.

"If I can use the depressed value of an asset for a greater value, well, wouldn't I want to do that to pay for a vacation?" Brown said.

Heydt also said he's confident the markets will rebound and the promotion will end up making money for the chain, where business has slumped about 25 percent and rooms are increasingly empty.

"The stock market, to me, represents opportunity," Heydt said. "So we will hold the stock and we'll wait for the market to turn around."

Approximately 100 U.S. stocks, from Ford Motor to Xerox , are included in the deal, which attracted more than 250,000 hits to the company's Web site through Monday.

Elite says some $10 million worth in bookings has been set aside for the promotion. The company operates all-inclusive resorts in Antigua, St. Lucia, Nevis, the Grenadines and the British Virgin Islands.

The promotion was first announced Friday on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

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