One year after parts of the Caribbean were battered by hurricanes Irma and Maria, resorts are being rebuilt and reopening.
"New tourism products and services are being restored daily in the destinations impacted by last year’s hurricanes,” says Hugh Riley, secretary-general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). “Affected countries are at various stages of recovery. All have done remarkably well under the circumstances and some are completely recovered.”
According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), 75 per cent of resorts and hotels in the Caribbean are “fully open.” On the hardest-hit islands, where restoration efforts are continuing, some closings are still in effect: 80 per cent of rooms on Puerto Rico have reopened, while on Saint Martin and the British Virgin Islands, about 40 per cent are open. “We anticipate these percentages to increase significantly over the next three months as more hotels open, many of them completely refurbished and upgraded,” says Frank Comito, CHTA’s director-general.
Here’s what you need to know about Caribbean resort destinations that were most affected by last year’s hurricanes:
Saint Martin: Home to Princess Julianna International Airport, a busy connection hub for smaller Caribbean destinations, the island was among the hardest hit last year. Westjet has resumed flights to the French/Dutch island, while Air Canada and Transat will be restarting direct service in December. While 60 per cent of hotel rooms on the island are still not operational, according to the CHTA, notable upcoming reopenings include Sonesta Ocean Point Resort in November and Belmond’s La Samanna in December. Other properties, including Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino and Spa and Oyster Bay Beach Resort, are expected to be fully operational early in 2019.
Anguilla: Sixty-five per cent of hotel rooms on Anguilla are open after last year’s storms. While properties such as the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla and Zemi Beach House Hotel and Spa will be operating as usual this season, The Reef by Cuisinart and Belmond Cap Juluca are among those that will reopen in the coming weeks. Additionally, the ferry terminal on Saint Martin, which provides some of the easiest regular access to Anguilla, reopened this summer. Night operations at Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport, which were suspended after Hurricane Irma, resumed in September.
Dominica: The CTO reports that there are more than 540 hotel rooms open on this 46-kilometre-long island, with Secret Bay and Jungle Bay due to reopen in November and February, respectively. Fort Young Hotel, a quayside heritage hotel, will undergoing ongoing renovations until next fall, with 40 rooms open in the interim. Douglas-Charles and Canefield, Dominica’s two airports, are fully open and ferry service to the island has returned to normal.
U.S. Virgin Islands: The commissioner of tourism reports that the U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas – have largely finished cleaning up from last year’s hurricanes: all beaches have been fully restored and airports are open (no Canadian airlines fly direct to the islands, though St. Croix and St. Thomas are serviced by American Airlines, Delta, United and other U.S. carriers). However, only about 50 per cent of rooms on the islands are operational and some properties are still mostly housing relief workers. Those that are up and running include The Buccaneer and The Palms at Pelican Cove on St. Croix, Estate Lindholm on St. John and Emerald Beach Resort on St. Thomas. Westin St. John Resort & Villas is expected to reopen in the first quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, a number of larger resorts on the islands – including Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, Caneel Bay on St. John and Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort – are not scheduled to reopen until late 2019 or early 2020.
Cruises: While Hurricane Florence, in September, required some temporary itinerary modifications, according to the cruise industry website Cruise Critic, as of July “every single Caribbean cruise port is open and welcoming cruise ships and visitors.”