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06 Nov 2018
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WTM 2018: Caribbean getting back in the game

Last September the Caribbean was hit by the region’s most destructive hurricanes in a century. Some islands escaped virtually unscathed while others suffered longer-term effects. But most are welcoming back tourists and some are using WTM London to push that message. Debbie Ward reports.

Map of the Caribbean Sea
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Some Caribbean islands escaped September 2017's storms virtually unscathed while others suffered longer-term effects. But most are welcoming back tourists and some are using WTM London to push that message.

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

The BVIs are running an “open for business” message with a BVI Reborn video celebrating their progress.


Charter yacht companies returned swiftly to these popular sailing islands, while the islands’ regatta took place as usual this spring. Some, including Dream Yacht Charter and The Moorings have reinvented their offering, with a “book by the cabin” option to entice a new, more budget-conscious, market.


Hotels have taken longer to come back, but several are welcoming visitors once more.


Scrub Island, Cooper Island and Anegada Beach Club all re-opened early this year, the latter with a new glamping option. Oil Nut Bay is relaunching, with new suites and a marina village available from December.


Necker Island’s Great House has been booking from October, with the rest of its accommodation opening in 2019. Meanwhile, Bitter End Yacht Club and Rosewood Little Dix Bay expect to reopen in late 2019. Others, including Peter Island and Biras Creek, have yet to confirm dates.


On its own stand at WTM London, the BVIs will launch the “villa bible”, highlighting other accommodation options available to tourists.


Despite significantly raised project costs, an airport runway extension will be going ahead to enable the island to attract larger aircraft.


Cruise calls resumed at Tortola Pier Park in late 2017. Disney Cruise Line returned this summer and Norwegian Cruise Line this autumn.


“We are expecting a remarkable 2018/19 cruise season with projections of more than 200 calls and 400,000 passengers at Tortola Pier Park and Road Harbour alone,” says Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism.


“As of August 15, there were 769 rooms on land and 2,930 berths available throughout the Territory.


By winter season, that number will rise to more than 1,000 rooms and 3,200 berths.


“For those looking to offer their support to the BVIs, the most vital way to help is by booking a trip and patronising our local hotels and businesses.”

Dominica

All but three of the island’s 45 tourist sites and more than half of its pre-hurricane rooms are ready for visitors, while major new openings are helping boost confidence.


Secret Bay and Citrus Creek Plantation are expected to relaunch in the last quarter of 2018, while Fort Young Hotel, already partly open, plans to expand from 73 to 103 rooms by October 2019. Some 544 of Dominica’s hotel and guest-house rooms (57% of the previous total) are back on sale.


Next year the island will welcome new Jungle Bay resort and Cabrits Resort Kempinski. The former will open in March 2019 and the latter in October 2019 near Portsmouth. Anichi resort, under Mariott’s Autograph collection, is due to debut in early 2020.


Liat resumed flights to and from Dominica immediately after Hurricane Maria, while same-day flight connections to the UK were restored in June.


Discussions with cruise lines began immediately post-hurricane. Marella started calling three months later and Carnival in summer. A total of 181 cruise calls are projected for the 2018/19 cruise season – an important boost to the economy.


Discover Dominica Authority chief executive Colin Piper says the mood is optimistic. “One year after Hurricane Maria, stakeholders in the industry can service their clients and earn a livelihood for their families,” he said. “Investors have confirmed their confidence in Dominica as a lucrative destination and we will see upwards of 340 new rooms open in 2019.”

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Hyatt, Intercontinental, Holiday Inn and Sheraton are among big names back on sale. St Regis Bahia Beach Resort (pictured) joined them this October following a $60 million renovation taking in rooms, a spa, seaside pool and esplanade where there will be a new casual dining restaurant. In a further vote of confidence in the destination, an expansion of the resort will add 60 oceanfront rooms, many geared to families.

Saint Martin

The cruise port and both airports are fully operational. Some hotels have announced late 2018 reopenings. Among them, Belmond La Samanna in St Martin will welcome guests from December following a “pastel chic” upgrade of the 83-room resort and is promoting twin centres with new Belmond Cap Juluca on Anguilla.

Anguilla

Anguilla

A major new property is part of the re-emergence of Anguilla’s tourism industry.


The first visitors were welcomed back to the island in November 2017, within weeks of Hurricane Irma hitting, with hotels including Carimar Beach Club and Shoal Bay Beach Villas remaining open.


The new nine-suite, butler service Quintessence (pictured) opened as planned in January. The Relais & Chateaux-branded hotel is designed to resemble a grand tropical mansion. Other high-end properties including The Reef by CuisinArt and Four Seasons reopened this April.


Belmond Cap Juluca relaunches this month having used the hurricane-induced closure to bring forward redesign plans. November also sees the return of CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa and Malliouhana.


A long-proposed runway extension, enabling Anguilla to receive 737s, has been approved since the hurricanes. Plus, the island gained a new international flight connection with the January launch of weekly UK flights from Trans Anguilla Airways. The Blowing Point Ferry terminal has been rebuilt and the Anguilla-St Maarten ferry link resumed in July.

St Barts

Cruise ships began returning to the island in late 2018. Family property Le Village has been back on sale for some time, while other hotel reopenings include Hotel Christopher, Hotel Le Toiny this October and Eden Rock this December. The rebuilding of Le Guanahani should be finished by late next year.

US Virgin Islands

Building work continues, but about 50% of properties are open, with more scheduled for a late 2018 relaunch. Cruise visits are fully operational and flight connections 70% restored, with two new Florida links from Spirit Airlines a welcome boost. Beaches are clear and the vast majority of attractions and restaurants are open. The islands are using the slogan “USVI is Still Nice” as their
back-in-business message.

Barbuda

The island was especially badly damaged, but its popularity as a day-trip destination from neighbouring Antigua means it has already been welcoming back visitors.


SVG Air resumed flights between the islands and there’s a new link from Barbuda Air Service. Plus, boutique hotel Barbuda Belle is due to reopen this month.

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