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The Myths
Even if you live in Florida, where Hurricane Irma jeopardized your home and maybe your life, you may well have been busy this past week—and will be for some time—rebooking Caribbean vacations and (worse) trying to arrange people’s homeward journeys. Soon, though, you’ll have another task: explaining to clients which islands and resorts are/aren’t back in business.

You’ll face at least two obstacles: (1) People’s weak knowledge of geography, and (2) Media reports featuring newscasters who said “Barbados” when they meant Barbuda, and generalizations such as “The U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas are ripped to shreds” (all of them—really?). So here’s the big picture:

  • Hurricane Irma did not level “the Caribbean”; it struck some islands in the northern Caribbean and the Atlantic, and not even all of them. Those hit hardest were Barbuda, St. Barths, Anguilla, St. Martin/Maarten, the British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. John (but not St. Croix), Vieques and Culebra (much of mainland Puerto Rico lost power, but that has since been restored along much of the north coast, so resorts and SJU airport are open), the north coast of the Dominican Republic, the north coast of Cuba (including Havana), Turks and Caicos, and some of the Bahamas.
  • Not even all of the Leeward (north Caribbean) islands were hit hard. Aside from exceptions mentioned above (e.g. St. Croix), other destinations in good shape include Nassau-Paradise Island, Jamaica, Haiti, the southern Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo through La Romana to Punta Cana), St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua. Everything south of Antigua is fine.
  • Most of the Caribbeans’ biggest draws are open for business, including Punta Cana, the San Juan area of Puerto Rico, Nassau-Paradise Island, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Aruba.
  • Some islands almost never get hurricanes, period. Explain to clients who now swear they’d never visit the Caribbean between July and November that the southernmost islands—Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Trinidad, and Tobago—lie south of the hurricane belt. Better yet, precisely because many people don’t know that, these islands’ hotels still have to offer hurricane-season rates. That should be an offer they can’t refuse.

For a guide to what’s now open, read Part 2 of the Irma coverage.