Travel industry stakeholders attending this week’s Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) State of the Industry conference in Nassau, Bahamas elected new leadership and provided fresh updates on post-hurricane progress in the region.
CTO board members selected Saint Lucia as chair of the organization with the election of Dominic Fedee, the country’s tourism minister. Saint Lucia and Fedee succeed the Bahamas and Dionisio D’Aguilar, the territory’s tourism minister.
“The Caribbean is one of the strongest and one of the most iconic and aspirational travel brands in the world, but also it is the most underutilized,” said Fedee. “The opportunity exists for us to ensure that we utilize the strength of the brand for the collective good of the destinations of the Caribbean.”
Meanwhile, several nations reported continued progress with their recovery from last September’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Colin Piper, chief executive officer of the Discover Dominica Authority, said 57 percent of the country’s hotel inventory (484 rooms) was available as of July 31.
An additional 470 new hotel rooms will be introduced in Dominica by 2020, Piper said. In addition 19 of 23 Dominican attractions are operational again, as are ferries from Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Lucia.
Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands (B.V.I.), said 75 percent of the territory’s hotel inventory should return to operation by the end of 2018. Additionally, the nation’s cruise ship arrivals are at 86 percent of pre-hurricane levels.
The B.V.I.’s yachting sector has rebounded quickly in the storms’ wake, with 75 percent of its 3,200 berths predicted to be ready for charter by year’s end. In addition, more than 700 rooms are now available in the territory including accommodations on Necker Island and Scrub Island, both of which re-opened this week.
Another 300 rooms are expected to be available in the territory by December. Among cruise operators calling at the B.V.I., Disney Cruise Line has already resumed calls while Norwegian Cruise Line is slated to return on October 18.
Antigua and Barbuda operators have launched a new ferry service said Charles “Max” Fernandez, the country’s tourism minister. In addition, the territory will increase its marketing of non-traditional areas as well as “environmental” tourism, he said.
Fernandez added that several new tourism developments are underway in the country including a new Waldorf Astoria Hotel and a new ferry service between Antigua and sister island Barbuda. In addition, the Barbuda Belle will be the first hotel to reopen on the island post-hurricane.
The dual-nation island of Sint Maarten, which was hard-hit by the September storms, is also rebounding, although most of the largest hotels and resorts remain closed as they continue rebuilding. Still, 30 hotels and inns have reopened since Hurricane Irma, said Alex Pierre, vice president of the French St. Martin tourism office.
Pierre added that 21 of 26 airlines which previously served the destination have returned while the country’s cruise port, traditionally among the Caribbean’s most-visited, has welcomed more than 600,000 passengers through May 31.
In Puerto Rico, which became a symbol of post-hurricane struggles among its populace, the tourism sector has recovered quickly. The destination expects a record growth in inventory next year and 135 hotels are currently operational said Brad Dean, chief executive officer of Discover Puerto Rico. Dean added that 4,000 restaurants and shopping areas have since reopened.
Meanwhile, the Bahamas will welcome 14 percent more flights to the destination this winter said Joy Jibrilu, director of tourism. U.S. gateway cities with new or increased service into Nassau, Freeport, Eleuthera, Abaco and Exuma include New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Houston via American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Silver Airways and national carrier Bahamasair.
Jamaica’s fast-growing hotel and resort sector will welcome another new property in December when S hotel, a 125-room resort opens on Doctors Cave Beach. Hard Rock will also break ground this year on a 1,100 room Montego Bay resort.
In addition, Marriott is scheduled to finish its Kingston hotel at the end of 2019, while the Hilton New Kingston is expected to open in July 2019. Finally, Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport will be expanded with 25,000 more square feet in the departures area and a larger runway apron.
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