Hot on the heels of Hurricane Irma, another major hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and Dominica, leaving a newly shorn path of destruction in an already devastated area. Both islands are without power; Dominica without running water as the death toll continues to rise while rescue efforts are conducted in more rural communities.
As for Hurricane Irma, the island of Barbuda had 90+ percent of its homes destroyed, along with its less than 100 hotel rooms. Saint Martin, the French and Dutch island and one of the region’s hottest destinations for tourism, was particularly impacted. Northern Cuba took a full broadside from the Category 5 storm, as it was at the time, and ten people died, and 5000 visitors were airlifted out of the country. Havana is severely damaged in parts, from wind and flooding destruction. The British Virgin Islands have been decimated.
Below is the latest on the conditions of the Caribbean islands struck by Irma and Maria, and the status of hotels and resorts there, according to information gathered by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
Antigua Business as usual, and expecting more crowds than usual.
Anguilla All services will continue in operation. The luxurious CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, which sustained severe damage, is anticipated to remain closed until the summer of next year.
The luxurious CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa and The Reef by CuisinArt was significantly damaged however, but is expected to reopen before the end of the season. The Quintessence Boutique Resort also sustained a fair amount of damage, “but nothing that can’t be repaired. However, the proposed 1 November opening will be delayed,” according to management.
The Bahamas Airports have resumed business with all international flights scheduled to depart. All ports have opened and resumed normal operations.
Dominican Republic Punta Cana International Airport has resumed normal operations. The hotel sector is reporting no major damage. The Barceló Resorts confirmed its resorts are fully operational.
Haiti was mostly unscathed. “All services remain in operation and the country continues to welcome visitors. Travellers are advised to contact their local travel or booking agent for detailed arrangements about their bookings,” a statement from the local tourism agency sagely advises. The famous Moulin Sur Mer was “not affected by Hurricane Irma.”
St. Kitts & Nevis sustained minimal damage overall and both St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport and Nevis’ Vance W. Amory International Airport have reopened. The Great House and Cottages at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club informs us it is “in excellent condition. However, there was damage to the Sea Breeze Beach Bar, the decking and the beach.”
St. Eustatius is fine. Director of Tourism Charles Lindo says, “St. Eustatius was spared the worst by Hurricane Irma. Telephone, electricity and internet are back up and both the airport and seaport are open. The Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies is currently conducting assessments throughout the islands. Initial reports indicate localized flooding and damage to roofs and some property but no reports of loss of life.”
Some properties will reopen by the beginning to middle of October 2017, while they assess and address any damage they did sustain, so if you were planning on going here, check before you leave.
United States Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas) A bit of a mixed bag: The Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix is open and fully operational. The Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas received extensive damage during Hurricane Irma and is only open for emergency relief flights, with a tentative date of September 16 to resume daily commercial flights to St. Thomas. All seaports on St. Croix are open and fully operational, but no seaplane service is available. All seaports in the St. Thomas/St. John district are also open but service between Cruz Bay, St. John and Red Hook, St. Thomas is limited to daylight hours only.
Most hotels are fine and open, but Caneel Bay is still suffering a complete power outage and Bluebeard’s Castle Resort sustained major damage. At Marriott Frenchman’s Reef the resort is waiving hotel cancellation and change fees for specific arrival dates, as is the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, indicating they are not fully running right now. At Margaritaville Vacation Club “Recovery efforts are to begin.” The Windward Passage on St Thomas will be closed for six months.
British Virgin Islands The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands has been devastating, according to a statement from Sharon Flax-Brutus, the director of tourism. Communication to and from the island has been sparse, due to so much infrastructure damage. Nonetheless, the main hotels were either seasonally closed and therefore very few people (and no tourists) were in danger, or/and were fine. The Rosewood Little Dix Bay was closed for renovations anyway. The Sugar Mill Hotel “suffered some damage but so far it appears manageable,” and the restaurant will, “open as planned on 12 October, 2017, and 14 October for the hotel,” they say.
A statement by Governor Augustus Jaspert states that the UK has come forward in support of the ongoing relief efforts. Ports have been opened to receive food & supplies, and new generators installed to provide clean water.
Cuba Having been savaged by the storm, resulting in ten deaths, great flooding and massive damage to its already somewhat fragile infrastructure, the largest Island in the Caribbean is going to be in recovery mode for a while, and tourism will be stunted. (American tourism is not really a factor, because only recently has it even be allowed, but for the rest of the world Cuba has been a top destination.) The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to Cuba after embassy personnel were the subject of attacks in Havana. The American embassy will operate with a 60 percent reduction in staff, and travel is not recommended for American citizens. Happily for the rest of the world, the recently opened Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski had beginner’s luck and “all of our guests and employees at Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana are safe and well,” according to a statement from the hotel.
Dominica has been practically destroyed by Maria. The island is without power and running water, and rescue efforts are slow. Telecommunications services have partially resumed and three major hospitals are open. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerri said, “So far we have lost all that money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains … the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof of my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.”
Puerto Rico is still being evaluated after a direct hit by Hurricane Maria, but the island’s entire power grid was effectively wiped away. Cell towers were also knocked down, and many towns have been cut off from communication due to landslides and flooding. Damage is extensive. More information can be found on our website, as well as ways to help: wonderlusttravel.com/puerto-rico-update/
St. Barts was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma and lost government buildings and many private homes. Hotels are expected to reopen in December.
St. Maarten (Dutch) / St. Martin (French) Airports have resumed business. Almost all the Island’s hotels, on both sides were severely damaged and won’t be opening for a while. The Esmeralda was “70 percent destroyed.” Reservations for several hotels have been cancelled for the rest of 2017.
Approximately 11 tons of supplies have been flown in from the Dutch mainland by the Red Cross.
Turks and Caicos Islands The islands also experienced a spectrum of damage. The Providenciales International Airport (PLS) reopened yesterday morning. The Palms Resort, Shore Club and Seven Stars are open, and the Windsong in Grace Bay, The Regent Grand, and the Villa Community expect to be closed for just the next two to three weeks. But the rest of the island’s hospitality properties have already announced they will remain closed for at least one to two months.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization and The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association will continue to provide updates on their websites.
CTO has activated its CTO Relief Fund through GoFundMe, to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes, with monies raised being sent directly to CTO-member destinations affected by the catastrophic storm. For more information on CTO’s Relief Fund or to make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto.
Donations through CHTA’s Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund can be made via http://www.tourismcares.org/caribbean.
Additional reporting by Mrudvi Bakshi and Jay McClure