When Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean, the impacted island nations were left reeling in its wake, not knowing that another storm was brewing with its eye set on them yet again. Hurricane Maria ravaged what little Irma had left behind, leaving several Caribbean countries dealing with their second Category 5 hurricane in the span of just a few weeks.
The U.S. Virgin Islands was hit by both hurricanes, and like many of its neighbors, the nation is slowly but surely moving towards normalcy for its residents and eventually towards revving up its once-booming tourism industry.
“We are forging ahead with our recovery and restoration efforts, and each day is better than the day before,” says Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Our federal partners and local stakeholders are working side by side to ensure a seamless and efficient approach.”
The fruit of these restoration efforts can be seen throughout the country as signs of progress are popping up all over the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Cyril E. King Airport reopened for commercial flights on Sep. 28, 2017, while the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport reopened on Oct. 5. Nicholson-Doty also notes that St. Croix and St. Thomas are expected to welcome cruise passengers over the next 30 days.
“We are heartened by the progress we have made since the passing of the second Category 5 hurricane,” says Nicholson-Doty.
With each of the islands sustaining varying degrees of damage, complete restoration of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ tourism industry will unfold in stages with St. Croix’s accommodations sector expected to rebound the fastest. One of the island’s flagship hotels, The Buccaneer, is already slated to accept guests in early November for the St. Croix Coral Reef Swim, an annual race that attracts both visitors and locals.
Other open hotel and resort properties on St. Croix include Caravelle Hotel & Casino, Club Comanche Hotel St. Croix, and Frederiksted Hotel. Cottages by the Sea reports that all guests with future reservations can assume those reservations are secure unless notified otherwise, while Sand Castle on the Beach received minor damage and will reopen once all essential services have been restored. Agents who have booked clients at Hotel on the Cay with reservations before Nov. 30 are advised to contact the hotel directly as management will be providing updates as they become available. Divi Carina Bay Resort & Casino will remain closed until the end of the year, and both Palms at Pelican Cove and Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa will remain closed until further notice.
On St. John, several resorts and hotels are still closed including Caneel Bay, Grand Bay Resort, and Westin St. John Resort & Villas, which will remain closed at least through the end of 2017 at which point they will reassess their ability to accept new guests. Concordia Eco Resort has decided to close for the remainder of 2017 and 2018, while The Inn at Tamarind Court is closed until further notice. Gallows Point Resort reports that it will reopen on Dec. 23 just in time to welcome guests for the holidays. Estate Linholm also has good news to report with its reopening date set for Dec. 1, 2017.
On St. Thomas, few resorts and hotels have reopened or report that they will be ready to reopen soon. Margaritaville Vacation Club, Bluebeard’s Beach Club, and WorldMark St. Thomas-Elysian Beach Resort are a few of the exceptions, having reopened on Oct. 10. Both Emerald Beach Resort and Bolongo Bay are currently housing hurricane relief workers but expect to accept guests starting in mid-November and mid- to late-December, respectively. Bluebeard’s Castle Resort, Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, Lindbergh Bay Hotel and Villas, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, and Sugar Bay Resort & Spa are all closed until further notice. Secret Harbour Beach Resort sustained no major structural damage but is still assessing when it will be ready for new guests.
Nicholson-Doty encourages agents to contact the U.S. Virgin Islands sales office in Atlanta at (404) 688-0906 or firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to secure updates. More information is also available at usviupdate.com, which is updated regularly as new information becomes available.
Above all, Nicholson-Doty wants agents and potential visitors to know that in the U.S. Virgin Islands, “the spirit of our people is strong, and as we work together, our resilient industry will return stronger than ever.”