As the cold winter looms large, thoughts of the sandy beaches, crystal-clear blue water and heavenly temperatures of the Caribbean dance in our heads. In the wake of the tragedies imparted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, it might seem a tad self-indulgent to think about this winter’s “Beach Getaway” vacation. But consider this: supporting the islands with their biggest trade – tourism – keeps the economy going, keeps people employed and 70% of the Caribbean Islands are still open for business.
Be sure to check the latest on travel to the Caribbean with the Caribbean Hotel Association’s website: caribbeantravelupdate.com.
A recent article from The New York Times detailed five Caribbean destinations with an update on the impact from the hurricanes as well as travel recommendations. There are “Splurges” and “Steals” for many of the islands so it’s well worth the read. For the full article, click here.
The hurricanes didn’t completely spare the Bahamas, a 100,000 square-mile nation comprised of 700 islands: according to Joy Jibrilu, the director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Irma destroyed some islands not known to tourists, such as Ragged Island, which saw total devastation. “The islands that see tourists were mostly untouched,” she said. “One example is New Providence, home to the city of Nassau, which is a big tourist draw.”
This southern Caribbean island of 110,000 people is a less than a five-hour nonstop flight from the East Coast and had no physical impact from the two storms. According to the chief executive officer of the Aruba Tourism Authority, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, vacationers to Aruba will find world-class snorkeling and diving and a flourishing dining scene of more than 300 restaurants. “We have more than 90 nationalities living on the island, and the cuisine here, including Italian, Dutch and Indian spots, reflects this diversity,” she said.
Mr. Comito, of the Caribbean Hotel Association, said that the three Cayman Islands saw no impact whatsoever from Irma and Maria. Grand Cayman is especially popular with vacationers. “There’s incredible diving, and it’s easy to get to with lots of airlift from the U.S.,” Mr. Comito said.
Like many of the islands in the Southern Caribbean, St. Lucia was not at all impacted by the two hurricanes. “Our hotels and businesses are all open and ready to welcome visitors,” said the island’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet. JetBlue has nonstop flights to the island from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and a handful of carriers offer connections through Miami.
Why go to Jamaica? “Why not?” said Donnie Dawson, the island-nation’s interim director of tourism. “We have miles of white sand beaches, a rich reggae music culture and lots of delicious epicurean finds,” he said. At roughly 4,400 square-miles, the island is about the size of the state of Connecticut, and is a three-and-a-half hour nonstop flight from New York.