As we remember a particularly busy 2017 hurricane season, clients have been asking the status of various Caribbean islands impacted by Harvey, Irma and Maria. Islands impacted the most are racing to re-build their tourism infrastructure to welcome visitors in early 2018.
The hardest hit islands were Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, Saint Maarten and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the group, only Barbuda lacks a significant tourism sector. Let’s take a look at each island.
Anguilla sustained significant storm damage and impact on resorts and tourist sites. However, the recovery is progressing and has seen the return of some tourists.
Progress has been slow in the British Virgin Islands as most impacted land facilities remain unavailable. However, commercial flights to the B.V.I. have resumed. Travelers can reach the territory via connections in San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua and St. Maarten.
Dominica was just recovering from Tropical Storm Erika when category 5 Hurricane Maria struck in September, devastating the mountainous nation. Access roads to nature-based tourist sites have been damaged and remain closed until repair work is complete. Thirty-five percent of reefs at dive sites were damaged, and all of Dominica’s nine dive operators remain closed with most not expected to re-open before January. Commercial flights, though limited, have resumed. 32 of the country’s 73 hotel or resort properties suffered moderate damage and are available to operate now or in the near future. Another 27 properties were severely damaged or destroyed.
In Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is fully operational with scheduled domestic and international flights. San Juan harbor has resumed operations and more than 80 properties are open, with most taking new reservations.
Some tourist sites including the San Juan’s Bacardi facility are open and El Morro and other San Juan historic sites are expected to open during the coming weeks.
In St. Maarten, Princess Juliana International Airport has opened to commercial flights. The island’s cruise port, (one of the Caribbean’s busiest), recently hosted its first ship and Rainforest Adventures will open St. Maarten Rockland Estate eco-park this month as well.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the local curfew has been lifted by the governor and the Territory will receive an estimated $800 million from the $4.9 billion approved for emergency operating loans for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico—part of the $36.5 billion supplemental disaster recovery spending bill approved by the U.S. Congress.
In the meantime, over 75% of the Caribbean was not seriously impacted by any hurricane and there is plenty of opportunity for beach vacations in Jamaica, Punta Cana and Riviera Maya, just to name a few.