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Travel industry news

13 Sep 2017

BY Gary Noakes & Gary Noakes


Hurricane Irma: 'Caribbean as a whole will need a huge push'

Hurricane Irma – one of the strongest in the Atlantic’s history – hit the Caribbean last week, tearing through islands and on to Florida in the days that followed. At least 38 people have been killed in the Caribbean and 12 more in the US, while some islands will require extensive rebuilding.

Devastation in the Caribbean. Credit: Getty Images

Trade support helps the Barbuda's economy, 60% derived from tourism, to provide funds to help rebuild

Agents should send clients on holiday to Antigua this winter to help the devastated island of Barbuda rebuild itself, the country’s tourism leaders have urged.

Antigua and Barbuda is one nation, with Barbuda – which took a direct hit from Irma – lying 26 miles north of Antigua.

“It’s a story of two halves,” Jean-Marc Flambert, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority’s vice-president sales and marketing, UK and Europe, told TTG.

Antigua, he said, got away “relatively unaffected”, whereas Barbuda has been severely damaged, with hundreds made homeless.

“We need support from the trade to make sure that the country’s economy, which is 60% derived from tourism, continues to ensure that funds are in place to help the rebuild,” he said. “The Caribbean as a whole is going to need a huge push in the weeks and months to come, and the trade needs to know that it is okay to sell it for this winter.”

In Antigua only one property, Galley Bay, is closed, but it will open in the next few weeks. “We have over 1,000 rooms that are sellable, we are ready to receive visitors,” Flambert said. The country’s tourism minister, Asot Michael, added: “Tourism… is vital for our islands so we appeal to you [agents and operators] to continue to sell Antigua to support our efforts in the rebuild of our sister island of Barbuda.”

Barbuda – which has a population of 1,600 – was almost entirely evacuated to avoid a second hit from Hurricane Jose, which when TTG went to press had stalled. Most evacuees are staying with friends and relatives on Antigua, but some are in shelters and 60% have no home to return to.

Hotelier Rosalind Winter, who runs the Barbuda Belle boutique property, was among the evacuees. She told TTG she was “just glad to be alive” and would start repairs to the property as soon as possible. “The hotel is still standing, but Barbuda will have to be rebuilt,” she said.

“My husband and I have lost everything, but we are thankful to have our lives.”

Donations can be made to the Rebuild Barbuda Appeal Fund, Royal Bank of Scotland account number 10019655, sort code 16-00-93.

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