BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) have released the following updates from member countries regarding the recovery and rebuilding efforts following the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the northern Caribbean and Leeward Islands.
The government has announced that recovery from Hurricane Irma is proceeding at an extraordinary pace. Phone and internet communications have been restored to most parts of the island. Roads and beaches have been cleared, there are no longer queues at petrol stations, and grocery stores are well provisioned. Many local restaurants have reopened, along with a number of hotels that are housing relief workers and UK government officials.
Significant progress is also being made on the restoration of the electricity grid; power lines to many villages have been restored in the three weeks following Irma.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the terminal at Blowing Point will be demolished. Architectural plans have already been commissioned for the design and construction of the new facility. Construction is expected to begin shortly, at which point a more detailed timeline will be provided.
Seaborne Airlines has also announced the resumption of service between Anguilla and San Juan beginning 30 September, departing San Juan at 12:10 pm to arrive in Anguilla at 1:15 pm and departing Anguilla at 1:45 pm to arrive in San Juan at 2:50 pm
Seaborne Airlines also announced on its Facebook page that it will resume service on 30 September to Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, and to St Thomas on 2 October.
British Virgin Islands
A majority of the hotels in the territory are currently closed.
Nearby Cyril E. King Airport (STT) in St Thomas reopened on 28 September, and BVI ferry companies (Road Town Fast Ferry and Native Son) have resumed operations between the islands allowing BVI Islanders, residents and work permit holders to return to the country.
The ferry company L’Express Des Iles has resumed service between Dominica and Saint Lucia. Beginning October 1, there will be daily service through to Friday 6 October, although there will be return service only on 1 October and 6 October. On the remaining days, service will be one way only, either from or to Dominica.
The government has announced that many fax and telephone landline services are back up in the northern town of Portsmouth, and that the main Princess Margaret Hospital continues to function, along with most of the major type 3 healthcare centres on the island. However, it says only some of the wards are currently functional and occupied, water and electricity have been partially restored and only emergency/life-saving surgical procedures are being performed..
Minister of tourism Manuel Marrero Cruz is quoted by the official Granma newspaper as saying Cuba will be ready for the high tourist season without a trace of Hurricane Irma. The minister met with 160 tour operators last week at Varadero’s Plaza América convention centre.
He said power, water, and communications were restored in 100 percent of the country’s tourist resorts, including the northern Santa María, Coco and Guillermo keys, and that tourism facilities in the territories of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Cienfuegos, Mayabeque, Artemisa, and Pinar del Río, did not suffer any damage, and have been operating without any difficulties.
He described the damage suffered by facilities in Sancti Spíritus, especially in the north, Las Tunas, the northern coast of the province of Holguín, and Camagüey, as minor, while the damage in Havana and Varadero as minimal.
According to Granma, the minister said of the 18 hotels located on Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, the latter of which suffered less damage, 14 will be fully recovered by 1 November, while the local airport will also be fully operational, and in better condition than before the hurricane struck. The remaining four hotel facilities will be completely restored to reopen their doors by 15 November.
The minister explained that all extra-hotel activities in Cayo Coco will be restored and back in operation between 15 and 20 October, including its marina, dolphinarium, glass tower, and beach huts, and that hotels on Cayo Santa María are expected to be fully operational by 15 November.
Of the 52 hotels in the country’s main tourist destination of Varadero, all except five are open, and the minister said: “By 30 October, there will not be a trace of the hurricane in Varadero.”
He reported a 50 percent drop in arrivals in September due to the hurricane, but through 22 September, the country had received 3.6 million tourists, 24 percent higher than the corresponding period last year.
The resumption of normal flight operations at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) is being delayed for safety reasons due to radar functionality limitations impacting the number of arrivals and departures. The airport is operational again but on a limited schedule from 7 am to 5 pm until further notice. There are approximately 12 commercial flights scheduled daily. International flights have not yet been authorized. Airport authorities are working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to resolve this situation while ensuring safe operations.
Minister of aviation Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher told The Daily Herald this week that the management of Princess Juliana International Airport was still carrying out in-depth assessments of the internal and external facilities, the majority of which suffered heavy to severe damage. The minister estimated the airport would not be back at full operation capacity “in all its glory” for another 35 weeks, but would be able to function optimally much sooner than that.
The entire airport perimeter fencing was destroyed and all four jet bridges sustained substantial structural damage. The swing cabs were blown off all four bridges and all metal entrance doors attached between the bridges and the terminal building were blown in.
All runway and taxiway lights and precision approach path indicators were destroyed. The shoulders and a section of the runway were underwater.
The majority of the roof was destroyed in the terminal building exposing the terminal to outdoor elements with water found on all four levels of the terminal.
There is no official date for the resumption of commercial flights into St Maarten, according to the minister.
Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is making a strong and speedy recovery following the passage of Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria did little to delay the rebuilding, and additional damage was minimal across most of the TCI’s eight inhabited islands.
Providenciales, which is the most developed of the islands and where 90 percent of the population lives, is on a steady path to complete restoration in the coming days, with additional islands in the archipelago close behind.
Currently, water and power have been restored in Providenciales, North and Middle Caicos and South Caicos, with needs being addressed on other islands. All roads on these islands have been cleared and as of 23 September, Providenciales International Airport and Grand Turk International airport were back to full operation and all flights in and out have resumed.
Shops and restaurants are also largely open and welcoming local guests and visitors through their doors.
US Virgin Islands (St Croix, St John and St Thomas)
Governor Kenneth Mapp reported that St Thomas’ Cyril E. King Airport opened to commercial flights as planned on Thursday, with both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines operating services to the mainland United States.
The restoration of power, he added, was “inching its way forward”, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with local counterparts, was progressing with its provision of water to homes.
The governor said cruise ships would like to return to St Thomas and St Croix as soon as 15 October, but that late October is a more realistic target. A formal announcement from the cruise lines and the US Virgin Islands government is expected next week.
Several businesses that serve cruise ship passengers are prepared to welcome visitors.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the cruise lines have requested a status report on beaches and other attractions in the US Virgin Islands, and that representatives would soon visit to assess sites in the territory so they can start scheduling cruise calls.
The West Indian Company Limited (WICO), which manages St Thomas’ main cruise pier, was largely undamaged by the storm, according to WICO CEO Clifford Graham.