Curious about traveling to the Caribbean this year? Wondering what’s open and what’s not? We’ve partnered with travel writer and island expert Angie Orth from Angie Away to learn how to help the islands of the Caribbean recover from a devastating hurricane season.
The friendly, welcoming people of the Caribbean are every bit as renowned as their beaches, luxury resorts and cruise ports, but recent visitors Irma and Maria wore out their warm welcome in a hurry. We’ve all seen the devastation in Puerto Rico, St. Martin, Barbuda and the Turks and Caicos on the news, and it’s been crushing to watch from afar.
High season in the Caribbean traditionally kicks off in early November. If you’ve ever spent time in this region, you know just how blissful it can be to board a flight in the chilly U.S. only to arrive on a balmy island just a few hours later.
But with all the damage and devastation, does this mean we should count the Caribbean out for travel this fall and winter? No way!
The Caribbean is an enormous geographic region. Home to 40 million people, it encompasses more than a million square miles on the map — almost double the size of the state of Alaska. Because of widespread misconceptions about geography and hurricane damage, the whole region suffers from a decrease in tourism when other islands are affected and covered in the media. As we witness the devastation and long recovery on some islands, as travelers we must remember that not only is tourism the lifeblood of the Caribbean, but the majority of the region made it through hurricane season unscathed.
While more than 30 islands weathered Irma and Maria’s high winds and record storm surges, it’s business as usual in plenty of other places, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize, Aruba, Bonaire, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua and Martinique. And they need our visits more than ever!
How to Support the Caribbean
Schedule a Winter Visit. The Caribbean is lovely all year round, but this is truly a critical time where every visitor matters. Whether you take a cruise or book a week at a beachfront resort, your vacation WILL make a difference. While the most heavily damaged islands are not ready for visitors to return just yet, pouring critical tourism dollars into other destinations in the region is a great way to support local economies so they can all lift each other up.
Cruise as usual. There’s no need to postpone or cancel your Caribbean cruise plans or reroute your annual winter holidays. According to a study, a single cruise sailing can generate $500,000 in economic impact, something destinations who haven’t been affected by this season’s hurricanes rely on. At press time, nearly 85 percent of Caribbean cruise ports are open. This includes the port of Key West which was ravaged by Category 4 Hurricane Irma. According to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, officials are hopeful that even the hardest hit ports — St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Maarten and San Juan, Puerto Rico — will reopen by the end of November.
Donate! If you’ve visited a resort before and perhaps have a favorite bartender, concierge or kayaking guide you’d like to support during the recovery, check the hotel’s website. Many have started GoFundMe campaigns to assist affected employees. There are also island-specific opportunities to donate should you want to contribute to a larger effort. Check out:
- Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation to support the U.S. and British Virgin Islands
- Richard Brandon’s Virgin Unite campaign to support the BVIs
- The Wait Institute has created the Barbuda Recovery & Conservation Trust Fund, matching donations to the trust.
- The Caribbean Tourism Organization created a GoFundMe to support the ministries of tourism who were most affected
If you love the Caribbean as much as I do, book a trip in the next few months. Send a note of encouragement to a resort employee who made your last visit special. Donate money or supplies. Every effort goes a long way to helping the islands we love get back to normal.
Which island in the Caribbean is your favorite? Will you visit in the next few months?
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