It’s been almost two years since Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the Caribbean, and you may be wondering: What’s the status of hurricane damage and recovery for some of your favorite destinations – Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, along with St. Croix and the rest of the Virgin Islands?
While the region still has not entirely recovered from those devastating storms, the good news is that each day more of the islands’ properties and attractions are reopening, and the region as a whole is more attractive and tourist-friendly than ever.
While you should check with your travel professional for advice on specific destinations, here’s a high-level, island-by-island update on the most heavily damaged parts of the Caribbean and how they’re recovering.
Hurricane Damage Update For Anguilla
In November 2018, Anguilla declared itself 100% recovered from the hurricane. That’s a major turnaround from 17 months previous, when Hurricane Irma substantially damaged almost 90% of Anguilla’s government buildings.
Hurricane Damage Update For Antigua/Barbuda
Barbuda caught the brunt of Irma’s 185-mph winds, prompting an evacuation of most of the island’s 1,800 residents. The majority wound up in shelters on Antigua, Barbuda’s sister island.
While much of Antigua’s tourist sector is back up and running, transportation of people and goods between Antigua and Barbuda is still irregular and unreliable.
Tourism on Barbuda is also beginning to rebound, but reconstruction is slow, due to transportation, material, and manpower issues.
The island is also weighing how and where to rebuild, as it considers the strong possibility of more destructive hurricanes.
Hurricane Damage Update For The Bahamas
The Bahamas have fully recovered from the hurricanes.
Hurricane Damage Update For British Virgin Islands
Some of the most scenic parts of the islands, including Virgin Gorda and Tortola, were hard-hit by Irma, but just about everything is back to its pre-hurricane status – or better.
On Tortola, the popular Sugar Mill resort, a former sugar plantation, finally reopened its entire property, including a restaurant set inside a 400-year-old former sugar boiling house.
Transportation is largely back to normal. Taddy Bay Airport on Virgin Gorda reopened in November 2018, and flights are also going into and out of the Auguste George Airport on Anegada.
Water ferries and taxis are also back operating on schedule.
Hurricane Damage Update For Dominica
Hurricane Maria damaged or destroyed more than 90 percent of the buildings on the “nature island.” The good news is that nature is leading the way in Dominica’s recovery.
While minor reef damage is continuing to repair itself, new rainforest has grown up to replace the old, creating new and even expanded habitat for Dominica’s unique bird, insect, and animal life.
What hasn’t rebounded as quickly in Dominica? People’s homes, many of which still bear the blue tarpaulins characteristic of hurricane recovery. Complete reconstruction of Dominica’s neighborhoods is a long way off.
Hurricane Damage Update For Dominican Republic/Haiti
While both countries have almost completely recovered from the hurricanes, an October 2018 earthquake presented Haiti with a new set of recovery challenges.
The U.S. State Department currently has a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) alert for Haiti because of crime and civil unrest.
Hurricane Damage Update For Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico and its recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria continue to make headlines, as competing factions debate how much money was contributed, how many people died or were displaced, and how far along the territory is in its recovery.
Regardless of who spent what, Puerto Rico’s recovery has been slow. In March the last residential customers were reconnected to the country’s power grid, but many houses and roads still have not been rebuilt or fixed.
Tourists will likely not notice these things; instead, they can focus on the many aspects of Puerto Rican tourism that are up and running.
Several top hotels have reopened over the last few months, including Dorado Beach, St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, and the vintage classics El San Juan and Caribe Hilton. In all, tourism officials expect room inventory to exceed pre-Maria levels by the end of the year.
The hurricane damaged or killed between 20 million and 40 million trees island-wide, or about 15% to 25% of Puerto Rico’s large trees. That has had a major impact on the island’s national parks and forests, especially El Yunque National Forest, where the island’s most popular hiking trails remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Hurricane Damage Update For St. Maarten/St. Martin
Irma did a number on the dual-nation island, causing ripple effects throughout the region. While recovery was relatively slow, almost all the country’s tourism infrastructure is back in business.
Five of the most prestigious resorts — Belmond La Samanna, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, Grand Case Beach Hotel Club, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort – have at least partially reopened, with more new construction set to open within the next year and a half.
Travel Age West estimates that 90% of the island’s pre-hurricane attractions are operational, with smaller attractions either slow to reopen or not reopening.
Hurricane Damage Update For Turks and Caicos
The Turks and Caicos have fully recovered from the hurricanes.
Hurricane Damage Update For U.S. Virgin Islands
Travel Agent Central reports that 60%-65% of accommodations are accepting guests, with smaller properties, villa rentals, and Airbnbs leading the way.
However, some of the islands’ largest properties have not yet reopened, including the Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, the Sugar Bay Resort, and the Ritz-Carlton.
Transportation is recovering slowly, with seats to St. Thomas at around 80% of pre-hurricane levels and cruise-ship arrivals strengthening.
One of the hurricanes’ unexpected benefits has been growth in the voluntourism sector, most notably the USVI tourism department’s Purpose in Paradise program, which lets visitors help with coral restoration, teaching, gardening, park cleanup, and rebuilding.
Hurricane Damage Update For Other Islands
If your favorite island isn’t on the list, it probably wasn’t damaged by the storms and should be fully up and running. However, a few friendly inquiries never hurt … and don’t forget the travel insurance!
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