Hurricane Irma has left travelers in the Caribbean stranded and many more wondering about the storm’s impact on their travel plans. Those who had a trip planned should check with their airline regularly to determine if airports have reopened.
Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30, though most major hurricanes occur in the months of August, September and October. While travel insurance is always a wise purchase this time of year, it can be pricey and typically must be purchased within a week of booking a trip. Also, the fine print should be examined, as some policies offer more practical coverage in the event of a hurricane than others. As the region begins its slow recovery there are near-continuous updates; here’s what we currently know.
Antigua and Barbuda
Irma demolished or damaged an estimated 99 percent of the building stock on the island of Barbuda, home to as many as 1,800 people, most of whom were evacuated to Antigua, which was spared Irma’s brunt, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. One death was reported in Barbuda.
“The biggest problem in Barbuda now is the fact that you have so many dead animals in the water and so on, that there is a threat of disease,” Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Fernandez said. “You could put all the people back in Barbuda today . . . but then you’ll have a medical crisis on your hand.”
Airbnb has communicated directly with hosts in Antigua, requesting they open their homes to displaced individuals and families in need of emergency housing, said Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s public policy lead for Central America and the Caribbean.
Barbuda’s hotel infrastructure was damaged, but with less than 100 hotel rooms, the overall impact was small, officials said.
Initial review of Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa, in St. John’s, Antigua, suggests the resort sustained superficial damage; it will remain closed until Dec. 20, said Cathy Decker, a spokeswoman for the resort. Guests with upcoming travel plans can call 800-SANDALS to reschedule.
The island experienced one fatality, and the main water supply was significantly damaged, along with critical infrastructure such as the hospital, airport, fire station, police station, government buildings and utilities. The airport runway has been cleared of debris, and the British government is coordinating recovery efforts.
The tourism sector has been seriously damaged on Anguilla, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Quintessence Hotel, which was expected to reopen Nov. 1, took a beating by the hurricane, so those plans have been delayed.
Carimar Beach Club, CeBlue Villas & Beach Resort, Fountain Anguilla, Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort, and Zemi Beach House all suffered some damage but anticipate reopening soon. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa and The Reef by CuisinArt took a serious blow from Irma and will update patrons regarding its rebuilding efforts on its website and social media. Sunset Homes Properties’ Spyglass Hill anticipates reopening Nov. 1.
The Islands of the Bahamas
The Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau has reopened with limited flights, and the Grand Bahama International Airport was expected to open on Sept. 12, according to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Travelers can contact their respective airlines for information. The remaining airports will resume operations once the National Emergency Management Agency gives the all-clear.
The Port of Nassau reopened Sunday with no vessels expected until Sept. 13; all other ports remain closed. Cruise reservation holders should check directly with their cruise provider for updates.
Sandals Royal Bahamian, in Nassau, escaped Irma unscathed, and Sandals Emerald Bay, in Great Exuma, was also spared the worst, said Decker, the Sandals spokeswoman.
Baha Mar Resort and Casino will resume full hotel, casino and retail operations on Sept. 12, according to the tourism ministry. Atlantis Paradise Island, Warwick Paradise Island, Breezes Resort & Spa, and Melia Nassau Beach Resort are set to welcome guests. There were a total of about 2,184 visitors throughout the Islands on Saturday, according to the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.
British Virgin Islands
Damage to the British Virgin Islands was widespread across all the islands, and a mandatory daily curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. came into effect Saturday.
“The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands has been devastating,” said Sharon Flax-Brutus, the director of tourism for the islands, adding that “the destination has lost entire structures and many homes are without roofs, or have been diminished to merely foundations.”
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency was reporting four fatalities as of late Sunday night. Images of the islands showed the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, which was closed during the storm, pulverized into piles of debris. On Tortola, the largest and most populated island, white boats were heaped atop one another among the shore’s rubble by a wave surge.
Peter Island Resort & Spa and Scrub Island both reported that all guests and associates were safe. Rosewood Little Dix Bay was closed for renovation during the storm, and Sugar Mill Hotel will reopen Oct. 14. Billionaire businessman Richard Branson, who weathered the storm at his home on private Necker Island, near Virgin Gorda, told The Associated Press that entire houses had disappeared and the area was “completely and utterly devastated.”
The British Government has been coordinating humanitarian relief efforts and a cleanup operation being conducted by hundreds of troops. The Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport and main roads in the Road Town area and outskirts of the capital have been cleared of debris. The airport is in limited operation.
The Dominican Republic was left relatively untouched by Irma, with only reports of damaged homes and flooded streets in Cabarete and Sosúa. Tourist destinations are up and running as usual, with airports, roads and ports operating without interruption, according to the Dominican Ministry of Tourism. Public services, such as water and electricity, are functioning in tourist areas.
“Hotels and resorts are back to normal and welcoming tourists,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García said. “Thanks to God and to the application of well-planned security and prevention protocols, no tourist or hotel center suffered any serious damage.”
St. Martin/St. Maarten and St. Barts
French authorities reported nine dead in French St. Martin and St. Barts, while two were reported dead in Dutch St. Maarten, which shares an island with St. Martin. Property and infrastructure damage were extensive, totaling more than $1.2 billion euros ($1.44 billion) alone on St. Bart’s and French St. Martin, according to an estimate by France’s public insurance agency.
The Dutch government estimates 70 percent of houses on St. Maarten were badly damaged or destroyed, leaving many of the 40,000 residents reliant on public shelters. St. Bart’s was slammed by Irma, which destroyed government buildings and badly damaged private homes.
Sonesta Hotels has reported major devastation to all three of its resorts and Oyster Bay Beach Resort has also reported extensive damage. All current guests are safe. All further reservations from now through the end of 2017 will be canceled.
At the height of the storm, the Beach Plaza suffered a hit when water came cascading through its atrium, propelled by 185 mph winds. The Westin Dawn Beach and the Hotel Mercure also sustained damage. About 70 percent of the Esmeralda Resort was destroyed, and other accommodations suffering damage were Belair Beach Hotel, La Vista Hotel, Princess Heights, Riu Palace St. Martin, and Summit Resort Hotel.
“To be frank, it’s pretty bad,” said Rolando Brison, the director of tourism of St. Maarten in an interview with the Caribbean Tourism Organization Saturday. “A lot of buildings were hurt very hard, a lot of roads are still inaccessible, the airport was very badly damaged. The port did seem to hold up very well, fortunately.”
Brison projected that the airport would be open at the earliest by the end of this week. The rebuilding effort has begun, with both the French and Dutch governments sending people and aid to the island.
“We are going to come back,” Brison said. “This is not our first rodeo with hurricanes. This might have probably been the worst ever, but we expect our resilient people will be what they always are: resilient, powerful, strong and faithful.”
Turks and Caicos
Irma caused extensive flooding across the Turks and Caicos Islands, with the water reaching above the waist in some areas. About 70 percent of homes sustained damage on Providenciales, the most populated island, and South Caicos, and half of homes suffered damage on Grand Turk Island.
Ramon Andrews, the director of tourism for the islands, said Monday afternoon in an interview with the Caribbean Tourism Association that the Providenciales International Airport had been reopened to the public, and in coming days, about 2,000 guests stranded on the islands will be able to return home.
All the guests at Beaches Turks & Caicos, in Providenciales, are safe and comfortable, said Decker, a spokeswoman for the all-inclusive resort. The resort will not be accepting new arrivals until a thorough assessment of the property is completed, she said. Guests with upcoming travel plans can call 800-BEACHES to reschedule.
Some resorts have lost power and water, such as Beaches, La Vista Azul, Ocean Club Resorts, Ports of Call Resort and Seven Stars Resort, among others, but all guests are safe, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Communications were up and running again Monday, and the power supply was being fed back to principal areas, such as hospitals, gas stations and hotels, Andrews said. A rebuilding effort has begun, he said.
“God is truly good,” Andrews said. “No loss of life, and an opportunity to rebuild, and for this we are thankful.”
U.S. Virgin Islands
The island of St. Croix managed to sidestep the worst of Irma, but visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands are being advised not to visit the districts of St. Thomas and St. John as of yet.
Fire and police stations collapsed and the main hospital in St. Thomas sustained heavy damage. As of Saturday, the storm had resulted in four fatalities on St. Thomas, and communications remained limited. A curfew remains in effect as of Monday.
The commissioner of Tourism in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, said that 150 tourists were flown out of St. Thomas Monday on a Delta Air Lines humanitarian flight. Among them were some who were prioritized because of medical conditions. Some 2,000 more visitors stranded by the storm were to be evacuated to Florida Tuesday morning.
The airports in Puerto Rico and St. Croix are open for commercial flights. St. Thomas’ airport remains closed to commercial air at this time but may reopen Sept. 16.
While The Buccaneer, Club Comanche Hotel St. Croix, Hotel Caravelle and Hotel on the Cay on St. Croix are open for business, Windward Passage on St. Thomas announced it will close for six months, and other St. Thomas resorts, such as Bluebeard’s Castle Resort, Marriott Frenchman’s Reef, Margaritaville Vacation Club, Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, Point Pleasant Resort, Secret Harbour Beach Resort and Sugar Bay Resort & Spa are still assessing damage. Westin St. John Resort Villas and Caneel Bay on St. John also sustained some damage.