The 2017 hurricane season decimated large swathes of the Caribbean, with some smaller islands suffering complete devastation in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. On Dominica and Saint Martin, a humanitarian crisis unfolded, with residents left without fresh water or electricity for months.
For many of these islands, tourism is a significant part of their economy. Any negative tourist perceptions are extremely damaging, but the 2018 tourist season is underway, and the Caribbean is currently open for business. However, not all islands are welcoming tourists with open arms.
Haiti was lucky enough to avoid significant hurricane damage last year, but nevertheless, the US State Department recommends travelers avoid the island because of a lack of emergency services and medical care.
US Virgin Islands
The USVIs were badly hit by Hurricane Maria and although damage repair has already begun, the bill is estimated to be around $200 million and many hotels are not open for tourists.
St Martin was also hard hit by Hurricane Maria with damage estimated to be around $1 billion. 95% of buildings on the French side of the island were destroyed. Although the airport has reopened to commercial flights, hotels are still closed, and many residents remain homeless. However, some of the larger hotels are expected to reopen by the end of 2018. St Thomas is a key stop on many Caribbean cruise itineraries, so for previously booked cruises, check the itinerary for further information.
Barbuda and Antigua
Barbuda was badly hit by Hurricane Irma with 95% of the island destroyed. In fact, it was so badly damaged that all residents were evacuated once the hurricane passed, and packs of stray dogs took over. These have now been brought under control and there are signs of recovery on the island. Sadly, it may be some time before Barbuda is ready to welcome tourists once again.
Antigua was far luckier, and damage was minimal. Tourists are welcome in 2018. Any extra monies generated by a boost in tourism on Antigua will be plowed into Barbuda’s recovery effort.
Islands Open for Business
Some parts of the Caribbean escaped serious damage during the 2017 hurricane season. If the idea of a sun-soaked vacation in the Caribbean sounds good, make plans to visit the Bahamas, Aruba, St Lucia, St John, Grand Cayman or Jamaica.
There are some amazing bargains to be found by budget-savvy travelers, with luxury St Lucia villas and romantic breaks available in beautiful resorts. With exceptional scuba diving and stunning scenery as standard, a trip to any of these islands would be the highlight of the year.
While the Caribbean undoubtedly bore the brunt of the 17th deadliest hurricane season since 1900, some of the loveliest islands are still welcoming tourists in 2018. Any money spent on a Caribbean vacation will help to fund the region’s disaster recovery.