How is the Caribbean recovering?
When Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in 2017, they ran through a lot of the Caribbean’s island chains. Winds reached 215mph – and that’s slower than those inside the tornadoes spinning on the edge of the storm’s eye. But since May, a lot of progress has been made throughout the region meaning that overall a lot of islands have reopened to tourism faster than expected.
After a blow like that, these islands need the opium of optimism, and tourism is helping to provide this as well as a return to normality. We’re confident that visitors will return because these are the most beautiful islands in the world. In this post we run through which islands are open for the coming season.
Supporting the Caribbean after Irma and Maria
It’s no secret that the Caribbean is home to stormy seas. As with many beautiful and tropical places, extreme weather is – to a degree – expected from time to time. It’s one of the reasons that the Caribbean is such a fascinating place to visit. But unfortunately just over a year ago, the Caribbean countries were wracked with some the most violent storms in recorded history.
Many countries and other organisations have committed significant resources to clearing up the damage left behind and, importantly, ensuring that any future storms will impact the region less severely. This has included €323 million from the EU between 2012-2016 and 300 million from the UK Department for International Development. A further $50 million dollars was promised last year from the UK alone to support British Overseas Territories like The Bahamas. Various NGOs have also helped with expert advice and support.
All over in November
Some islands were untouched by either storm – many that were are now open and all islands that sustained heavy damage are well into recovery and rebuilding operations. According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, over half of the CHTA-member hotels on the most severely affected islands have reopened. Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island – just one of the region’s stunning locations – has re-opened. And a lot of charters are going ahead from next month (November) in places like the British Virgin Islands and Bahamas.
Anguilla – almost entirely back to normal
Nearly all restaurants are open as normal, watersports operators are back in service; the Anguilla Tennis Academy and the 18-hole golf course at the CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa are open. Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve on Rendezvous Bay is under renovation, but the iconic Moonsplash music festival, cancelled this year, is planned to be back in 2019.
Bahamas – almost entirely back to normal
Most of the Islands of the Bahamas escaped severe damage. The islands are back to business after mainly cosmetic clean-up in the major tourism centers. The Port of Nassau and the Freeport Harbour are open and cruise lines from the U.S. are due to resume for this season.
Antigua managed to avoid serious damage in last year’s hurricanes. Due to careful preparation by the local authorities most significant damage was avoided.
The majority of residents have returned including the frigate birds! (Frigate birds are a family of seabirds found across all tropical and subtropical oceans.) This is good news for wildlife enthusiasts because the Frigate Bird Sanctuary in Codrington Lagoon is now open to visitors again as a result. Actor Robert de Niro is pushing ahead with his plans to build a resort on the same spot as the shuttered K Club, a resort favourite of Princess Diana. Rather than cancel these plans, once the true scope of devastation became clear, the native New Yorker’s focus shifted to helping rebuild the island. The new resort could bring in jobs for locals and give the tourist industry the boost it needs.
Barbudas coral reefs are beginning to regenerate. Luxury Beach Resort, the Barbuda Belle, re-opens next month. There are even rumours about plans for a new runway at the Codrington Airport to accommodate jets.
Just five months after the storm there were already signs of a tourism buzz. And thankfully so – tourism is the major earner and top employer in these islands. More than half of all visitors to the BVIs come for the sailing, so rescuing and restoring boats after the damage was a priority in the clean up process. The islands offer approximately 800 berths on sea!
Cuba – almost entirely back to normal
Cuba has excellent public facilities and technical expertise and the EU gave them 3 million, along with expert help and materials. This meant the Cuban authorities were able to build sustainable flood defence systems. There is damage throughout parts of the island but you can and should still travel to Cuba. All hotels are fully restored and operating excluding Puntarenas and Playa Caleta; Paradisus Varadero, Ocean Patriarca, and Meliá Península which will reopen on November 15.
Dominica – returning to normal
Dominica was hit especially hard and recovery has been slow, but new developments are in the pipeline and embracing its nature may be helping. With forests, trails, hot springs and waterfalls, ecotourism is hoped to help get the island back on track. The water remained clean after the storm. The island was also able to get cleaned up enough to accept cruise ships at the beginning of 2018.
Puerto Rico – returning to normal
Many visitors venturing to Puerto Rico to support have reported that they were relieved to see so much progress and beauty around the island. Beaches are safe for swimming and some are more beautiful than ever. The majority of hotels are fully operational and resorts are due to take reservations soon.
St Barts – almost entirely back to normal
This tiny French commune has proven an unwavering ability to bounce back. All hotels and resorts are expected to be re-opened for the coming season. All 14 beaches have been cleared and are open for swimming and the cruise port in Gustavia is open. There are not many visitors to St Barts who don’t become regulars, so we suspect a big support base helped ensure the island was reborn.
St Martin – returning to normal
Calm azure water, a long, quiet crescent of white sand, and beaches lined with tiki bars, palm trees and thousands of tourists in beach chairs with matching umbrellas – it sounds idyllic. But it isn’t yet what it once was. Nevertheless, all 37 of the island’s stunning beaches are open, the roads are clear and the locals are as welcoming as ever, so St Martin is perfect for visitors seeking sun, sand and solitude. However, most hotels and restaurants remain under construction.
US Virgin Islands – almost entirely back to normal
Private-public partnerships have almost outpaced federal recovery efforts. Groups such as Love City Strong (“Love City” is St. John’s nickname), Love for Love City Foundation, All Hands and Hearts/Smart Response and Bloomberg Philanthropies have been key in restoring these islands. The islands’ residents have worked incredibly hard and have also received a lot of support from part-time residents. Most hotels and resorts have re-opened or are due to reopen soon.
Finishing on an even more positive note, the following islands were entirely unaffected:
- Cayman Islands
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- St. Eustatius
- Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean’s smallest islands are drier, cooler and less humid from December to April – a typically Caribbean weather pattern. We think it’s great to get some sun, sea and sand during the UK’s Winter months. What’s certain is that tourism is really important to help get the islands affected by the hurricanes back to normal. With close monitoring of projected hurricanes in place and by choosing when you travel to the Caribbean, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to unleash your inner Jack Sparrow.
If you’re looking for a warm Winter retreat, or boating areas to holiday in, consider the Caribbean. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada weren’t affected by the storms and are booming. Conveniently, you can fly direct to St Lucia from London. For up to date advice on sailing in the Caribbean, you can contact a Borrow a Boat consultant on email@example.com.