Preparing for my trip to Dominica, I lost count of the number of people who thought I was going to the Dominican Republic.
But this lesser-known Caribbean destination was truly in the spotlight last August, when Tropical Storm Erika ripped through the island, killing more than 30 people and causing damage totalling close to the country’s entire GDP.
When I visited for myself last week, there was still evidence of Erika’s impact: detours around bridges that had been ripped from their foundations, and trees on their side having been torn from the ground.
But while the emotional and economic wounds of the disaster might still be raw, the island has done such a phenomenal job of rebuilding its infrastructure that my enjoyment of the island was not affected in any way.
As is typically the case, the island’s recovery has not garnered nearly so much publicity as the tragedy itself, and it is taking time for travellers to regain confidence in the destination. The tourist board now hopes a new campaign highlighting the island’s incredible natural attractions will earn Dominica more of the right kind of attention.
While Dominica has been rebuilding roads and homes, Tunisia has been working hard to convince UK authorities that it is now safe – including building a wall along its border with Libya.
French, German and Italian tourists are already returning to the country, but FCO advice prevents the all-important British market from doing so – a situation the tourist board hopes will change in the near future.
And Tunisia is well aware how important UK agents will be to its recovery. While consumer advertising is on hold, the tourist board will be out meeting agents at many of TTG’s Big Night Out roadshows this year, starting with Southampton, London, and Bristol next week.
Tunisia’s challenge is different to Dominica’s, and in many ways more complex. But as Dominica has shown: whatever must be built or rebuilt, those destinations that rely on tourism always find a way. And agents with the right information can more than play their part.