70% of the Caribbean is open for business, some resorts are still cleaning up after Hurricane Irma and Maria.
Prior to being struck by Irma, Anguilla had recorded robust growth in the tourism sector for the year. The clean up across the island is progressing well, with basic utility services being restored, and the airport has reopened with what will be an extended runway. Many hotels are due to reopen for Christmas.
The UK government has been instrumental, providing both physical support and promises of financial aid.
All islands in the Bahamas are open for business and all except the two largest, Nassau and Grand Bahama, have an emphasis on authentic tourism aimed at families. With an expanding airlift network, both to and between the islands, 2017 has been a good year for Bahamas, especially Nassau with the long awaited opening of Baha Mar.
Barbados continues to have impressive figures from all source destinations including the UK, despite the fall in the value of the pound.Overall, arrivals for the first nine months of the year were up 7% to 453,645. Increasing frequencies from British Airways, Virgin and Thomas Cook, plus new hotels, add to the bullish outlook for the country. 2018 will see a push on culinary aspects of Bajan plus a revamp of the Mount Gay Rum round-the-island yacht race, which has been launched as Barbados Sailing Week.
Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands (BVI), updated the conference via Skype and said that pre-Hurricane Irma the BVI was poised to have a record-breaking year.
She said progress was being made in restoring communication, basic utilities and airport services. The BVI will not be open for business this month, during which time assessments will be completed; yachts repaired; accommodation, beaches and tourist attractions restored, and the integrity of access ports repaired. Like Anguilla, available hotel rooms are being used by hurricane relief workers. However, BVI will begin to welcome guests back to the islands from November 1.
Grenada has had an exceptional increase in visitor numbers from the USA, Canada and most of all Germany this year. The UK is down year on year but efforts to offer ‘value’ tourism through tour operators continue. Chocolate, spice, cuisine, sailing and dive continue to be the main attractions with new hotels, Kempton and Silver Sands, due to come into operation within the year.
Martinique saw a 16.7% rise in tourist arrivals based around increased hotel beds and more cruise passengers in 2016. The island has seen a 500% growth in cruise arrivals in the past seven years.
Nevis escaped the ravages of Irma and Maria but one of the main hotels, the Four Seasons, is undergoing a three-year rolling renovation. All other hotels are open and offer a variety of new food and sports festivals, which are driving business to the island.
The latest storms took out over 70% of the hotel stock in St Maarten, but some of these will be back on sale in November. The Dutch Government has provided physical aid, but it will also be offering financial aid, including 0% interest loans for rebuilding.
Recovery on the French half of St Martin is well underway with support from other Caribbean islands and France. The airport is open and the plan of action now is to set in place strategies to ensure the 2018 and 2019 seasons operate as normal. However, 2017 has been a write-off.