Caribbean ‘needs tourists’ to return after Irma
Rebuilding the hurricane-hit islands will take time but visitors should not be deterred, says Hugh Morris
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma across the Caribbean will not dampen the resolve of tourism officials for the region to remain one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. Though some islands, notably the British Virgin Islands, Barbuda and St Martin, suffered extensive damage from one of the strongest storms to hit the region in a decade, the Caribbean tourist board said fewer than 10 per cent of hotels and resorts are set to be closed for longer than a week.
“The best way to help us rebuild is to continue with your holiday plans, keep making your holiday plans,” said Colin James, the CEO of the tourist board of Antigua and Barbuda. The latter was reduced to “rubble” by Irma, which damaged 90 per cent of the island’s buildings.
“We are working very hard to help Barbuda, but it will take a year for repairs to be fully completed.”
James said Antigua, Barbuda’s larger and better-known sibling 40 miles south, was “largely unscathed”. “If you came to Antigua now you would not be able to tell it had been hit a hurricane,” he said.
In an effort to spread the message that the Caribbean, visited by about a million British holidaymakers each year, is open for business, its regional tourism organisation (the CTO) has been issuing regular updates as to the progress of the islands’ recovery.
Rachel O’Reilly, the head of communications at luxury operator Kuoni, said the impact varied from island to island but that some had escaped damage, including St Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica. She said some guests whose holidays had been disrupted by Irma had been relocated to one of these. The majority of hotels on Antigua are welcoming guests again, while the CTO said though Barbuda’s 100
HOW THE ISLANDS ARE AFFECTED
Antigua was ‘largely unscathed’ and the majority of hotels are welcoming guests