TORONTO — After a strong start in the first half of 2017, the Caribbean is revising its full-year growth forecast to 1 – 2%, down from 2.5 – 3.5%.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria are putting a dent in visitor figures for the last months of 2017.
Up to June, the Canadian market had grown 6.4%, according to the CTO, reflecting growth in many of the CTO’s other source markets worldwide. Hotel occupancies and average daily room rates were up too, as was the cruise sector. At the end of the first six months of 2017, cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean region had reached an estimated 15.3 million, up 4% year over year, the largest number of cruise passengers in the region at this time of year.
“Then came the hurricanes – first, Irma, then Maria – that inflicted such damage on some of our member countries, causing such despair,” said Dionisio D’Aguilar, Chairman, Council of Ministers, CTO, speaking yesterday at World Travel Market in London.
Noting the CTO’s revised forecast for the year, D’Aguilar said that as for post-hurricane tourist arrivals, “it is still too early to tell”, since the October numbers are not yet in. Some cruise redeployments have benefited countries such as Curacao, which registered a 138.3% rise in cruise passenger arrivals in September, Jamaica (54%), the Cayman Islands and Grenada.
He added: “You would have noticed that we predict growth in tourist arrivals this year, albeit slower than expected, which could still mean new record performance for the Caribbean despite the storms. This is mainly due to the fact that some 75% of the Caribbean was unscathed by the hurricanes and continued to welcome visitors.”
Hugh Riley, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organization, says this year can be described as “a tale of two situations for Caribbean tourism”. The region performed at new record pace, welcoming 16.6 million international tourist arrivals at a healthy growth rate of 5.2%, when compared to the same period last year.
The economic impact of the storms is significant, says Riley. The Caribbean Development Bank predicts that every 1% reduction in tourist arrivals (based on 2015 travel data) will cost US$137 million in lost revenue.
Caribbean Tourism Month, taking place this month, provides an opportunity to reiterate the message that “we are open for business and we do have an exciting product to offer.”
Virtually all of the affected countries are reporting that they are open again for business, although not at full capacity.
Here are the latest updates on Anguilla, The Bahamas, Dominica, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands:
Anguilla is reporting that just over 30% of room stock will be available for the holiday season, and anticipates that 70% of rooms on the island will be available by April 2018.
The Reef by CuinsinArt will open April 10, 2018. CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa is targeting the summer 2018. And the Belmond Cap Juluca, which closed at the end of August for a 14-month multi-million dollar renovation, is on schedule to open for November 2018.
The Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) has created a website, Irma.IvisitAnguilla.com, for the latest updates on hotel and restaurant openings, restoration of services and attractions as well as relief efforts.
The ATB reports that traditionally hotels in Anguilla close in September and October for renovation and refurbishing, and reopen in November for the season. Therefore, at this point, closures are primarily due to damage from Hurricane Irma.
Most local restaurants have reopened, with approximately 70% ready for Christmas and New Year’s, but some attraction operators are taking a bit longer to recover.
However, the ATB states that the beaches “are in fantastic shape”. Swimming, snorkelling, diving and glass bottom boat rides, are all available. The championship golf course at CuisinArt will reopen in December.
Regarding the overall damage assessment cost, the ATB states: “Anguilla was damaged but not destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Our flat terrain and the fact that many of our buildings have concrete foundations also helped to mitigate the impact of the storm. As a British overseas territory the British government has committed funds to help us rebuild. The government is still conducting its assessment, so a final figure has not yet been determined.”
Clayton J Lloyd Intl Airport (AXA) opened within a week of Irma’s passage, while Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten (SXM), a major transit hub for Anguilla, opened on Oct. 10, albeit with limited facilities. Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Marin Airport, also a major gateway for Anguilla, is also open.
Anguilla and St Maarten airports are open during daylight hours. Seaborne Airlines, Anguilla Air Services, Trans Anguilla Airways, Air Sunshine, Tradewind Aviation and Caribbean Helicopters are all operating scheduled and charter flights to San Juan, St. Maarten, Antigua and St. Kitts.
While Anguilla does not have a cruise port, and the Blowing Point ferry terminal has been demolished to make way for new construction, ferry services are operating to and from Anguilla to the Dutch side of St. Maarten through Funtime Charters, Calypso Charters, GB Express and Gotcha Sea Tours.
The ferry from Anguilla to Marigot on French St Martin reopened on Nov. 4. Visitors and residents are processed through customs and immigration at the police station at Blowing Point.
Approximately 40% of the local power company ANGEC’s infrastructure has been restored, and crews are working round the clock with a plan to cover 70% of the island, including Sandy Ground, Island Harbour, East End and Blowing Point, by Christmas.
Water has been restored to households and businesses in Anguilla. Operations at the Water Corporation of Anguilla have returned to normality and all lines of access to public water are open.
According to the ATB, thanks to the resilience and industriousness of the Anguillian people, things are pretty much back to normal. Phone and Internet services have been restored, schools are open, gas stations, groceries and pharmacies are all open and are well stocked.
The major inconvenience remains the lack of power, but generators are gradually filling the gap, says the ATB.
Of the 280 hotels in New Providence, Grand Bahamas and the Family Islands, approximately 97% are open, with the remaining three percent closed due to hurricane damage.
These include Falcon Crest Apartments, Silvertail Fishing Lodge & Resort and Ponderosa Bar & Restaurant (Hotel) in Ragged Island, Crooked Island Lodge (formerly Pitts Town Landing) in Crooked Island, Chester’s Bonefish Lodge, Airport Inn and Nai’s Guest House in Acklins and Blue Water Resort in New Providence.
In addition, the following hotels closed due to seasonal closing:
- Coral Sands (re-opening Nov. 18, 2017)
- The Dunmore (re-opening Nov. 15, 2017)
- The Landing (re-opened Nov. 4, 2017)
- The Pink Sands (No confirmed reopening date)
- The Rock House (re-opening Nov. 16, 2017)
- Romora Bay (re-opened on Oct. 27, 2017)
- Runaway Hill (No confirmed reopening date)
The following properties are opened to welcome visitors:
- Atlantique View Resort
- Caribbean Seaview Apartments
- Classique International Guest House
- Coffeeriver Cottages
- Hibiscus Valley Inn
- Picard Family Guest House
- Pointe Baptiste Guest House
- Portsmouth Beach Hotel
- Rejens Hotel
- Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge
- St. James Guest House
- Suite Pepper Cottage
- Sunset Bay Club
- Tamarind Tree Hotel.
Air Antilles, Air Sunshine, LIAT, Seaborne Airlines, WINAIR, and Trans Island Air have all announced resumption of services to Douglas Charles Airport. Costal Air Transport and Express Carrier have also resumed regular services to Canefield Airport. L’Express des Iles fast ferry service is operating daily between Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia. Travellers interested in visiting the destination should inquire with their travel agent or on the websites of the various carriers.
The Dominica Watersports Association has reported 35% damage to reefs at 10 dive sites. All dive operators are closed, however some are expected to reopen in January 2018. Once operations resume, the number of dives per site will be reduced to limit any negative impact on the underwater ecosystem.
All 14 segments of the Waitukubuli National Trail remain closed. Assessments of the damage to the trail are currently being undertaken.
According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), 72% of hotels are open and operating (108 out of 149 endorsed hotels), especially those in the San Juan area, and are taking new reservations.
The PRTC adds that 35 hotels are reported closed as a result of damage from Hurricane Maria, with many of them working on reopening shortly and are currently accepting future reservations.
Some also may be only open to first responders at this time. The PRTC is advising that for property specific information, visitors should contact the hotels directly.
More than 450 restaurants, including franchises, are open for business, including restaurants in the Condado, Old San Juan and Santurce areas, 27 tour operators and 16 major car rental companies with 61 dealers throughout the island, are open for business.
The PRTC is also reporting that 66% of casinos are open, and 38% are open 24 hours.
Iconic attractions currently open include:
- Boqueron town, Cabo Rojo
- La Paguera town, Lajas
- Schoenstatt Church, Cabo Rojo
- Old Ponce Firehouse Museum, Ponce
- Serralles Castle, Ponce
- The Watchman Cross, Ponce
- Vieques Boardwalk
- La Esperanza Town Boardwalk, Vieques
- Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park, Luquillo
- Niuyorican Café, Viejo San Juan
- Hacienda Munoz Coffee Plantation, San Lorenzo
- Ponce Museum of Art, Ponce
- Rainforest Zip Line, Rio Grande
- Las Cascadas Water Park, Aguadilla
- Punta Borinquen Golf Club, Aguadilla
- Cabo Rojo Convention Center, Cabo Rojo
- Bioluminescent Bay, Lajas
- Mayaguez Mall, Mayaguez
- Mayaguez Boardwalk, Mayaguez
- Mosquito Bay, Vieques
- Hacienda 8A, Las Piedras
- Cueva Ventana, Arecibo
- Casa Bacardi Tours
It is too soon to tell what the economic impact may be, says the PRTC. “Recent efforts [have allowed] us to more quickly to reactivate tourism on the island. Major decisions by different partners of the tourism industry are proof of their confidence in Puerto Rico as a major hub in the Caribbean. We hope that all this, coupled with the fact that our capital of San Juan was recently showcased as one of Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ Top 10 Cities for 2018, reinvigorates travellers, as much as it does us, that we’re ready to welcome visitors with open arms.”
Luis Munoz Marin Airport (SJU) is open and receiving commercial flights. The airport is fully operational and airlines are resuming normal operations with approximately 70 flights per day, while the San Juan Port is open with 34 cruise shore excursions fully operational. Some 6,000 cruise passengers embarked from San Juan on Oct. 28.
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas returned to San Juan as homeport on Oct. 7, and Freedom of the Seas will add San Juan as a port of call starting Nov. 30.
Meanwhile Carnival Fascination will resume transit stops in San Juan starting Nov. 30, while Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Sea made its first-ever call to San Juan on Oct. 26. The ship will be making both homeport and transit stops. It welcomed 750 passengers, almost 500 of which enjoyed shore excursions before spending the night on the ship to begin their trip across the Caribbean. Celebrity Summit from Celebrity Cruises arrived in San Juan on Oct. 28, bringing 1,540 passengers, and departed on its Caribbean itinerary with 1,800. It was due to return to San Juan on Nov. 4.
According to status.pr, the government website that provides post-hurricane updates, 36.9% of Puerto Rico Power Authority (PPPA) customers have electricity. Those that do not may have power through generators. The website also states that 83.11% of the water company, PRASA customers have running water, with running water in 91% of San Juan and some form of water distribution in all 78 municipalities.
Regarding the level of normality, the PRTC states: “After a challenging aftershock following Hurricane Maria, our confidence at the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) continues to grow as we work together with partners to make great progress and rebuild. This is seen in San Juan, specifically, which has become the centre of the island’s efforts to rebuild.”
The USVI department of tourism states that many hotels and villas on St. Croix are currently open for visitors, including The Buccaneer, which started welcoming leisure guests on Nov. 1. Others will be renovated and reopened later this year and in 2018.
The hurricanes’ impact on St. Thomas/St. John was more significant, and while several hotels and villas are currently open for visitors, and many are currently housing relief workers, others will be renovated and reopened in early 2018.
Hotels needing more extensive renovations are expected to reopen in the latter part of 2018 and in early 2019. There are approximately 4,500 traditional hotel rooms and another 4,000+ Airbnb, VRBO and timeshare units in the USVI.
Restaurants and shops in the Main Street and Havensight Mall areas of St. Thomas are open, as are restaurants and shops in downtown Christiansted, St. Croix. More restaurants and shops are reopening daily as power restoration spreads throughout the Territory.
Meantime, many attractions, including beaches such as Magens Bay and Smith Bay Park, are open and ready for business in St. Thomas. Other popular attractions that are open include Buck Island Sail and Snorkel Catamaran, Abi’s Beach Bar, CastawayTours and Coral World in St. Thomas, and in St. Croix, Buccaneer Golf Course, SkyDive Virgin Islands and the Casino at Hotel Caravelle.
Both Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas have been open for several weeks and are accepting daily commercial flights, with service available from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines.
All cruise ports are open. These include the West Indian Company Limited (WICO) Havensight facility and the Virgin Islands Port Authority’s (VIPA) Crown Bay Center dock, both in St. Thomas, and Ann E. Abramson Pier in Frederiksted, St. Croix. More than two dozen cruise ship calls are scheduled for the month of November.
As of Oct. 30, 2017, 62% of St. Thomas, 81% of St. Croix and 86% of St. John was without power. There are more than 500 linemen in the territory working on restoration, and power is expected to be restored to 90% of the Territory by the end of 2017.
Water is available throughout the Territory. The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) has issued a precautionary boil water notice for potable water customers. Most homes have cisterns, so residents without potable water through WAPA still have access via cisterns.
The department of tourism reports that progress is being made daily to restore the territory to normality.
Governor Kenneth E. Mapp has stated that the cost to rebuild the territory’s infrastructure is estimated at US$5.5 billion dollars. This figure does not include the cost to repair damage to private properties including homes, hotels, restaurants, attractions and activities.