Caribbean Reels From Hurricane Irma

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Workers clear a roadway in hard-hit St. John.

Information is still trickling in from the Caribbean islands ravaged by Hurricane Irma. Others fared better. Here is what we know right now, as another Category 5 storm, Maria, sets its sights on Puerto Rico.

Milton Segarra, president & CEO of Meet Puerto Rico, reported that “the Puerto Rico Convention Center and most hotels are fully operational, ready to welcome guests and accepting reservations. Most damages are restricted to debris, which is being removed.” Condado Plaza Hilton sustained minor damage and El Conquistador Resort is operational although Las Casitas Village will reopen when electricity is restored. El San Juan Hotel will open shortly. The Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is up and running, as is the port.

Airports in The Bahamas are now operational, as are the ports in Nassau and Freeport. As of September 13, major meeting properties had reopened, including Atlantis Paradise Island and Grand Hyatt Baha Mar at Baha Mar Resort.

In the British Virgin Islands, “The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma has been devastating,” reported Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands. Few resorts report that they’ll be open this fall.

The Dominican Republic fared better, with most airports, including the one at Punta Cana, now operating, and the hotels reporting no major damage. All AMResorts and Barcelo Hotel Group properties reported they were back in business.

In St. Kitts, the Caribbean Tourism Organization had to call off an important meeting on St. Kitts that would have begun September 6 because of the threat from Irma. Ironically, the conference was supposed to be about coping with the extreme weather events associated with climate change. In the end, St. Kitts and Nevis missed the worst of it, and both airports have reopened. Hotels on St. Kitts report no serious damage; the same goes for the Four Seasons Resort Nevis.

The United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism web site requests that all visits to the islands be postponed due to the impact of Hurricane Irma. The word from St. John is devastating, with Caneel Bay and the Westin St. John reporting that they will be closed for the remainder of 2017. In St. Thomas, resorts closed include the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, Frenchman’s Reef and Point Pleasant. Bolongo Bay Beach Resort has pushed back its reopening date to December 22.

Learn how the hospitality industry is banning together to assist victims of Irma and Maria.

Learn more about Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida here.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.