Excerpted from The New York Times by Shivani Vora
Hurricanes Irma and Maria upended life in the Caribbean and beyond, wreaking havoc on islands stretching from Barbuda to Puerto Rico.
The scale of the damage is still being determined, but many islands in a region that draws the jet set for fall and winter getaways were largely unscathed. In fact, nearly 70 percent were not damaged by the hurricanes and are eager to delicately tout that they’re open for business, according to Frank Comito, the chief executive officer of the Caribbean Hotel Association, an organization that represents hotels and tourism-related businesses in 32 Caribbean destinations. (The organization has created a site, caribbeantravelupdate.com, where travelers can learn the latest on travel to the Caribbean).
Beach getaways are no superficial affair in the Caribbean and the neighboring Lucayan Archipelago, where many islands rely on tourism. Spending by vacationers in this currently beleaguered region will determine its economic future.
Below are five islands that are open for business, along with an affordable and high-end hotel package for each.
The hurricanes didn’t completely spare the Bahamas, a 100,000 square-mile nation comprised of 700 islands: according to Joy Jibrilu, the director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Irma destroyed some islands not known to tourists, such as Ragged Island, which saw total devastation. “The islands that see tourists were mostly untouched,” she said. One example is New Providence, home to the city of Nassau, which is a big tourist draw.
This southern Caribbean island of 110,000 people is a less than a five-hour nonstop flight from the East Coast and had no physical impact from the two storms. According to the chief executive officer of the Aruba Tourism Authority, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, vacationers to Aruba will find world-class snorkeling and diving and a flourishing dining scene of more than 300 restaurants. “We have more than 90 nationalities living on the island, and the cuisine here, including Italian, Dutch and Indian spots, reflects this diversity,” she said.
Mr. Comito, of the Caribbean Hotel Association, said that the three Cayman Islands saw no impact whatsoever from Irma and Maria. Grand Cayman is especially popular with vacationers. “There’s incredible diving, and it’s easy to get to with lots of airlift from the U.S.,” Mr. Comito said.
Like many of the islands in the Southern Caribbean, St. Lucia was not at all impacted by the two hurricanes. “Our hotels and businesses are all open and ready to welcome visitors,” said the island’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet. JetBlue has nonstop flights to the island from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and a handful of carriers offer connections through Miami.
Why go Jamaica? “Why not?” said Donnie Dawson, the island-nation’s interim director of tourism. “We have miles of white sand beaches, a rich reggae music culture and lots of delicious epicurean finds,” he said. At roughly 4,400 square-miles, the island is about the size of the state of Connecticut, and is a three-and-a-half hour nonstop flight from New York.
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