Caribbean Update

CARIBBEAN Beach
Much of the Caribbean is back open for business. After damage from two back-to-back hurricanes four months ago, many destinations are reporting that they are ready to welcome tourists with open arms. Many travelers seem to have the impression that the entire region was destroyed, but these islands want tourists to know that this is not true. Tourism plays a large part in recovery, bringing revenue to the region, and providing employment for residents. They encourage people to come and see for themselves. There is still some residual damage and recovery efforts continue, but the beaches are still beautiful, and the people always warm and welcoming.

Several islands suffered no effects from the hurricanes of this past season. The Bahamas experienced minimal damage, and what occurred there was not in a tourist region. Aruba, the Cayman Islands, St. Lucia and Jamaica were not impacted. All together, twelve Caribbean countries/territories were affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria. In St. Kitts and Nevis, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, recovery was very quick, and hotels are back up and running.
However, in some regions there are still issues with electricity, potable water supplies and extensive damage to property. The most seriously affected countries and territories include Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, both Dutch and French Saint Martin and the US Virgin Islands. All are working diligently towards recovery
and restoration.

Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua was only minimally impacted by Hurricane Irma. The airports, hotels and restaurants are open for business as usual. Some hotels were closed for refurbishment and all of these have reported that they are still on schedule to re-open as planned.
Barbuda was severely impacted by the hurricane, which passed directly over and devastated the small island. Ninety percent of homes were destroyed. Barbuda’s hotel infrastructure was also damaged, but with less than 100 hotel rooms the overall effect on tourism was  minimal.

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has announced that it is open for tourism! All airports are fully operational. More than 100 hotels are open, and four thousand restaurants are serving up delicious cuisine. Major tourism attractions island-wide have been cleaned up and restored. Close to 60 cruise shore excursions are available, and have helped San Juan secure over 70 transit calls from cruise lines through the end of January 2018. However, many areas are still without power and water, and residents continue to pick up the pieces.

USVI
Commissioner Nicholson-Doty provided post-hurricane updates, stating: “We want our travel partners to know that during our recovery, their clients can still have a very special vacation experience this season, whether they are visiting by cruise or staying at a hotel or villa, and taking advantage of the many activities and attractions, restaurants and shops that are operational,” she said.
The effects of the storm brought out the best in people, and Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas is hosting displaced, local Virgin Islanders and a number of relief workers until at least May 2018. Their website states: “The Island is slowly recovering, the trees are green again, beaches are safe for swimming, road repairs are happening, Cruise Ships are back visiting, and while most of the hotels (just like homes) are still closed for rebuilding, we will recover from the storms.”
As recovery continues, it will be even easier to get those travelers to the USVI, as Spirit Airlines’ twice weekly service between Fort Lauderdale and St. Thomas will increase to four flights per week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays), effective February 16, 2018.

British Virgin Islands
Cruises are assisting with the recovery efforts in the BVI, where recovery is still underway. “The cruise pier is operational and able to receive ships,” said Sharon Flax-Brutus, the BVI’s director of tourism, “but we’re not accepting larger ships to our destination-ones that are 4,000-plus passengers-until we can rebuild more of our infrastructure.” There are fun activities for day-trippers coming off cruise ships, including “pop-ups” in tents on the beach, bringing a beach party vibe to areas yet to reopen.

How to help
Fundraising to assist with recovery efforts continues. The CTO has a campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto They also want travelers to know that the best way to help the Caribbean is to travel to the Caribbean.
For more information about specific destinations, visit the tourist boards’ websites.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has declared 2018 the Year of Wellness and Rejuvenation in the Caribbean. Sounds just right! www.onecaribbean.org

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