Skift is providing live updates on how Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose, and related developments are impacting the travel industry and travelers throughout the Caribbean and the United States. All times are Eastern Standard Time.
Sept. 12, 9:15 p.m.
American and JetBlue Begin to Restart Operations in Florida
Two major airlines in Florida and the Caribbean — JetBlue Airways and American Airlines — started limited Florida operations on Tuesday, spokesmen for the carriers said.
American said it re-started “limited” flights from its Miami hub, with the first arrival from Seattle landing at 7:02 a.m. American’s first departure was a flight to Las Vegas, airborne at 9:17 a.m. American had flown two aircraft to Miami on Monday, but they were relief flights and did not carry fare-paying passengers.
In all, American restarted limited flying to seven airports in the Southeast United States on Tuesday, including to Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach. More airports in Florida and the Caribbean were to come online on Wednesday, including Havana, Sarasota and Tampa.
American is hoping its operation will be almost normal by Friday. American said it had canceled 780 flights on Tuesday and 175 on Wednesday, mainly in the Caribbean and Florida. As of Tuesday, it had proactively canceled only five Saturday flights.
JetBlue Airways, with robust Florida operations and a focus city in Fort Lauderdale, said it operated limited Florida flights on Tuesday. It said in a statement it planned to “work up to our full schedule in Florida by end of week.” However, it warned it might have to cancel further flights, “as infrastructure is evaluated.”
JetBlue said Tuesday it had canceled 450 flights between Tuesday and Friday. Before it can start its full schedule, it also must move crews and aircraft back to Florida.
JetBlue is selling remaining Florida-bound seats through Sept. 18 at $99 for nonstop itineraries and $159 for connecting flights.
September 12, 6:25 p.m.
Florida Keys Can’t Handle Visitors For Now
Florida Keys and Key West tourism officials requested that tourists postpone any “near-terms plans to vacation in the island chain.”
Residents and business owners got to nod to return to the Upper Keys today.
The re-opening of the Keys to vacationers will be uneven, with some areas ready before others, officials said. Key West is expected to be open by Fantasy Fest, which this year is slated to kick off October 20.
Key West International Airport won’t be operational for commercial service until electricity and water have been resorted, officials said.
September 12, 5:17 p.m.
Marriott Issues Updated Statement on Hurricane Irma
Marriott issued the following statement: We continue to monitor the impact of Hurricane Irma on hotels in the impacted areas. As always, the safety and security of our guests and associates is a top priority. Our hotel management teams are evaluating the status of the hotels and working closely with local authorities as needed. We express our appreciation for the efforts of local police, emergency responders and other officials in supporting the community.
To date there have been no reports of storm-related injuries to employees or guests at our hotels. While most of our hotels are open, some hotels in the affected areas have sustained damage. Efforts are underway to fully restore operations but some hotels may have temporary interruption or limited availability of guest services.
While many of the hotels impacted by the storm are waiving cancellation fees for confirmed reservations, for the most up-to-date information, please visit the hotel’s website.
For information regarding reservations, please call (800) 228-9290. Those in countries outside of the United States seeking information about the impact of the storm should call the Marriott International toll-free number in their country.
September 12, 5 p.m.
Anguilla’s Zemi Beach House Reopening to Be Determined
Zemi Beach House on the island of Anguilla had closed to guests in advance of the hurricane, but the property held strong during the storm and all staff members are safe. A reopening date is still to be determined. For any further inquiries, the hotel has advised guests to contact Frank Pierce, Director of Sales & Marketing at email@example.com.
AlSol Resorts in the Dominican Republic Are Operating As Normal
Hurricane Irma fortunately missed the Dominican Republic and all properties under the AlSol Hotels & Resorts umbrella — Sanctuary Cap Cana by AlSol, AlSol Tiara Cap Cana, AlSol Del Mar and AlSol Luxury Village — are open for business, operating as normal.
September 12, 3:00 p.m.
U.S. Department of State Issues Emergency Alert For Caribbean
The State Department issued an emergency alert to U.S. citizens to “avoid travel to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Eastern Caribbean due to continuing hazardous conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.”
The Caribbean emergency alert and warning follow separate travel warnings for the Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti issued last week ahead of the storm. The Haiti travel warning is also meant to warn travelers of current security threats and lack of adequate medical facilities and response, the State Department said in its warning.
September 12, 10:30 a.m.
Choice Donates Free Nights to First Responders
Choice Hotels is providing 1,250 free hotel nights, in partnership with the American Red Cross and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to relief works and families whose lives were overturned by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In addition, Choice said it “also hosted an event where they assembled comfort kits, which included basic necessities and blankets for victims to be shipped to American Red Cross.
“Moreover, members of the Choice Privileges loyalty program can use points to contribute to the American Red Cross. As of today, loyalty members have donated more than $250,000 by converting their Choice Privileges points into cash donations.”
September 12, 10 a.m.
Passport Service Still Closed in Miami, Monitoring Situation in Atlanta
Passport service Travisa says its Miami offices and the U.S. Consulate remain closed, but while its facilities in Atlanta are still open today, it is monitoring the situation in Atlanta as now Tropical Storm Irma passes through.
Travisa stated: “As Hurricane Irma dissipates, the aftermath continues to impact millions of Americans and businesses. In Miami, the Travisa office remains closed today, along with all Consulates and the U.S. Passport Office. Airports are expected to resume limited service today, with FedEx and UPS operations resuming in limited capacity later today. In Atlanta, the Travisa office is open, the Brazil consulate is closed, and UPS and FedEx have resumed service with delays expected. Travisa is keeping a close eye on this situation as it develops and will contact customers that may be impacted directly.”
September 12, 1 a.m.
U.S., France and Royal Caribbean Aid St. Martin
Bloomberg reported that the U.S. government dispatched a plane to pick up stranded Americans on St. Martin, Royal Caribbean had a supply-carrying ship set to dock nearby, and France was bringing in aid after much criticism about a slow response.
According to Bloomberg: “The U.S. government said it was sending a flight Monday to evacuate its citizens from St. Martin, one of the hardest-hit islands where 10 people were killed. Evacuees were warned to expect long lines and no running water at the airport.
“A Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship was expected to dock near St. Martin to help in the aftermath, and a boat was bringing a 5-ton crane capable of unloading large shipping containers of aid. A French military ship was scheduled to arrive Tuesday with materials for temporary housing.
“About 70 percent of the beds at the main hospital in the French portion of St. Martin were severely damaged, and more than 100 people needing urgent medical care were evacuated. Eight of the territory’s 11 pharmacies were destroyed, and Guadeloupe was sending medication.
“French President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to arrive in St. Martin on Tuesday to bring aid and fend off criticism that he didn’t do enough to respond to the storm.”
September 11, 7 p.m.
Status Updates on Caribbean Hotels
Laura Davidson Public Relations passed along a number of statements from its hotel clients in Paradise Island, Bahamas; Antigua, St. Kitts, and Puerto Rico:
Atlantis, Paradise Island
“The storm has passed us by and our prayers are with those who are affected by and still in the path of Hurricane Irma. We are extremely fortunate that everybody – our guests, associates and marine life – made it through the storm safely and Atlantis has sustained no damage. Once all advisories were lifted, the team began the process of putting furniture back out and removing the sandbags that were filled prior to the storm. The resort is now fully operational. It is during times like these that we see it as our moral responsibility to support the community as best as we can, not close our doors on them. Everyone is safe. Everyone had a place here at the property and together we navigated the storm. We were able to host hundreds of local residents who stayed with us, dined with us and participated in resort-curated activities. Our hearts break over the catastrophic loss from both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Please join us in sending a message of strength to all. We stand with you.” Howard Karawan, President and Managing Director, Atlantis Paradise Island, The Bahamas
Curtain Bluff, Antigua
“Our hearts go out to all those who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma. Curtain Bluff sustained no damage and is still scheduled to reopen on October 28 as previously planned following a 6-month closure for a renovation. We express our appreciation to our staff, local authorities and members of the community who went above and beyond in storm preparation efforts to protect the people of Antigua as well as the resort.”
Park Hyatt St.Kitts
“Our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma. The eye of the storm passed to the north of St. Kitts & Nevis, and Park Hyatt St. Kitts did not sustain any damage. We remain on track for our resort opening on November 1, 2017. As our resort is in its pre-opening phase and not yet accommodating guests, the safety of our staff has remained our top priority.”
Royal Isabela, A Destination Hotel (Puerto Rico)
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the rest of the Caribbean and affected parts of the U.S. territory during Hurricane Irma. The safety and security of our guests and staff remain our primary priority. As the resort team members were able to overcome many of the obstacles Hurricane Irma presented, we have reopened and are accepting guests. We express our gratitude toward the local authorities and tourism teams who continue to communicate updates on behalf of Puerto Rico.”
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort
“Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort is now operating at a full level of service and welcoming guests. Our thoughts remain with those devastated by this storm. If you have questions pertaining to an upcoming reservation, please contact us at 787-888-6000.”
September 11, 3 p.m.
Travel Insurance Claims are Mounting
The stats are rolling in on the travel-insurance front following Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
A spokesman for Allianz Travel Insurance said the company has received more than 3,200 claims so far from Hurricane Irma, 2,400 claims related to Hurricane Harvey, and “a handful” to date because of Hurricane Jose.
The Allianz Travel Insurance call center has handled more than 1,200 calls. That number is bound to increase because many customers in the affected locations still don’t have power.
Allianz Travel Insurance established a hurricane alert page on its website for support and more information about filing a travel insurance claim. Information is also available on its TravelSmart mobile app.
September 11, 2:45 p.m.
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar to Reopen Tuesday
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahama, announced that the property will reopen Tuesday.
The hotel’s statement said: “Following the passage of Hurricane Irma through the Caribbean, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar will resume full hotel operations and welcome guests beginning Tuesday, September 12. Reservations are being accepted starting today via www.bahamar.grand.hyatt.com or by calling 1-800-233-1234.
“We are grateful for the safety of our guests and staff, and appreciate everyone’s cooperation in executing our emergency response plan,” said Scott Allen, general manager, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. “Our thoughts remain with those severely affected by the storm within the Islands of the Bahamas, Caribbean, and United States. We will be working together with the Baha Mar team, government authorities as well as local aid organizations in offering assistance to support our neighbors and local community.”
September 11, 2:30 p.m.
Delta and Disney Poised to Resume Florida Operations
September 11, 2:30 p.m.
Delta and Disney Poised to Resume Florida Operations
Delta was set to resume flights to Palm Beach, Florida tonight with other destinations in the state probably not getting operational until September 14. Meanwhile, Disney and Universal Orlando planned on re-opening their gates Tuesday.
September 11, 1:05 p.m.
Marriott Establishes Phone Number to Locate Guests
Friends, families and colleagues looking to locate Marriott guests waylaid in Hurricane Irma now have dedicated phone numbers to call to help in the process.
Marriott International: “In response to Hurricane Irma, Marriott International has established a resource line for those looking for information about guests and associates who may have been impacted by the hurricane. The number is (866) 211-4610. For those calling outside the U.S. and Canada, the number is +1 402-390-3265. The resource line is staffed from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (ET).”
September 11, 11:45 a.m.
Passport Offices Remain Closed in Miami
Passport service Travisa said its offices and the U.S. Passport Office in Miami remain closed today.
Travisa: “Hurricane Irma continues to impact millions of Americans and businesses. In Miami, the Travisa office remains closed today, along with all Consulates and the U.S. Passport Office. With airports closed, FedEx and UPS operations are suspended until further notice. In Atlanta, our office and all Consulates are closed in addition to the suspension of FedEx and UPS operations.
“Travisa is keeping a close eye on this situation as it develops and will contact customers that may be impacted directly.”
Likewise, Miami International Airport is closed September 11 as it assesses the damage.
A notice on the airport website said: “MIA will be closed Monday, September 11. After a damage assessment today, we will determine if passenger flights can resume on Tuesday. Follow us on Twitter at @IflyMIA for the latest updates.”
September 11, 09:40 a.m.
13,000 Flights Cancelled So Far
Johnny Jet reported that 13,000 flights have been cancelled to date because of Hurricane Irma and area airports were assessing their damage.
— JohnnyJet (@JohnnyJet) September 11, 2017
September 11, 8:20 a.m.
Millions Lose Power in Florida
USA Today reports nearly 7 million people lost electricity in their Florida homes.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 11, 2017
September 10, 10 p.m.
Some Havana Streets Resemble Rivers
NBC Nightly News tweeted a photo of a street in Havana the had residents wading through waste-high water.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) September 11, 2017
And a series of photos from NBC News details the hurricane’s devastation throughout the Caribbean.
September 10, 9:55 p.m.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes Questions Trump on Climate Change
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes took President Trump to task on climate change, tweeting (with a few typos) that he wondered whether the president still thinks it was fine to pull out of the Paris climate accord.
I wonder weather @realDonaldTrump still things the weather in the world is fine and it’s fine to pull out of the paris agreement
— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) September 11, 2017
September 10, 9:30 p.m.
Miami Airport Suffers Water Damage
NBC Nightly News is quoting the CEO of Miami International Airport as reporting that the airport has “sustained significant water damage throughout” and that wind gusts from Hurricane Irma were approaching 100 miles per hour.
CEO of Miami Int'l Airport: Airport "sustained significant water damage throughout" and was hit with wind gusts near 100 mph during #Irma.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) September 11, 2017
September 10, 9 p.m.
France, UK and the Netherlands Criticized Over Hurricane Response
France was dispatching President Emmanuel Macron to St. Martin, who was bringing relief supplies, as St. Martin officials criticized the French government for its tepid response to Hurricane Irma. The UK and the Netherlands was facing similar heat for the way they’ve handled the crisis in the British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten, respectively.
For example, stranded Dutch tourists at the airport in St. Maarten had to stand around and watch as American and Canadian travelers got relief flights out of the Irma-damaged islands.
September 10, 6 p.m.
United Adds a Flight for Hurricane Victims
United Airlines said it added a flight and flew 179 people rescued from various Caribbean islands from San Juan to Newark, New Jersey.
United posted the following Hurricane Irma updates on Facebook:
United is flying an extra section today, SJU -EWR, with 179 customers who were brought to Puerto Rico ⅵa military rescue from islands throughout the Caribbean.
RSW and TPA are forecast to receive the brunt of the storm. Resumption of service at these locations will be heavily dependent on the capability of facilities, staffing and local infrastructure in the wake of the storm.
United’s travel waiver has expanded to cover additional cities in the Southeast.
September 10, 5:30 p.m.
Airbnb Hosts House Hurricane-Displaced People
Airbnb tweeted some of its hosts in Puerto Rico are opening their homes to displaced residents and rescue workers for free.
— Airbnb Help (@AirbnbHelp) September 10, 2017
Earlier, Airbnb noted that 156 hosts in the Florida panhandle, northern Georgia, and northwest and southeast South Carolina were letting displaced neighbors and relief workers stay in their homes from September 6 to 28.
September 10, 1:49 p.m.
Delta Informs Customers About Waivers on Changes and Bag Fees
Delta News Hub is letting customers know how to change travel plans Monday and Tuesday in Hurricane Irma-affected cities, and what waivers, including for some bag and pet fees, will apply.
According to Delta’s News Hub:
1. Changes in service, including catering and cancelations, are possible Monday for flights to, from and through Atlanta.
As Delta meteorologists continue to track Hurricane Irma, strong winds and extended rain are expected in Atlanta starting Monday and could affect flights at the hub. Catering operations also can be affected, which would require reductions in or changes to regular in-flight meal and beverage service.
2. Use delta.com to change travel plans involving Atlanta Monday and Tuesday
Customers with itineraries involving Atlanta Monday afternoon through Tuesday are encouraged to use delta.com to change their travel plans.
3. Fees are waived for travel changes, baggage and pets in cabin
Delta has combined and consolidated waivers for customers transiting three dozen destinations where flights will be affected by Irma through Sept. 17. Similarly, Delta has paused baggage and pet-in-cabin fees for customers traveling to or from impacted cities.
4. Airports from the Caribbean north through Georgia and Alabama are affected.
An updated airport-by-airport outlook for operations in the Caribbean, Florida and the southeastern U.S. is available here.
September 10, 1:36 p.m.
United Issues Waivers for Oregon Wildfires
If Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Jose, and an earthquake in Mexico weren’t enough, the U.S. west is dealing with wildfires. United Airlines informed travel agents that flights ticketed September 10-12 through Portland, Oregon could be changed without change fees and the fare difference through September 17.
September 10, 1:30 p.m.
Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay Leading Critters to Safety
Fox 13 Tampa Bay, Florida reports that Busch Gardens in Tampa was leading its flamingoes and other animals out of harm’s way ahead of Irma’s looming arrival.
Think we can agree flamingos are the most picturesque of hurricane evacuation animals https://t.co/wmyJ1lhvnc
— Patricia Mazzei (@PatriciaMazzei) September 10, 2017
September 10, 11:15 a.m.
Caribbean Tourism Organization on Hotel Assessments
The Caribbean Tourism Organization provided an update — its third — on assessments regarding the status of destinations/infrastructure and hotels on various Caribbean islands impacted by Hurricane Irma.
Following are excepts about the hotels:
Updates from individual hotels on Antigua are as follows:
· Curtain Bluff: Property emerged from the tail of the storm without any damage. Most importantly, all staff and their families are unharmed. The clean up of the property has begun and communications will soon be restored.
· Cocos Hotel: No long term damages
· Galley Bay: Guests are doing just fine and are safe. Operational updates will be available in the coming days
· Hermitage Bay: A little waterlogged from the swells which came up but other than that all is well.
· Jumby Bay Island: Members of the Jumby Bay Island team have assessed the island discovered no structural damage to any of the resort or homes. A landscaping clean-up will be needed, however. Jumby Bay Island is currently closed as part of its annual maintenance programme and therefore no guests were on the island when Hurricane Irma passed. Jumby Bay Island did have a skeleton team of facility and security staff present throughout the storm. The reopening remains on schedule for 9 October, 2017.
· Keyonna Beach Resort: No long term damage.
· Pineapple Beach Club: Guests are safe. Operational updates in the coming days.
· St. James Club: Guests are safe. Operational updates in the coming days.
· Verandah: Guests are safe. Operational updates in the coming days
Quintessence Hotel which had been expected to reopen 1 November suffered damage during Hurricane Irma, so those plans have been delayed.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Bitter End Yacht Club: the hotel was on its annual closure during the storm. The crew on the ground is safe.
· Peter Island Resort & Spa: Guests and on-island staff are safe.
· Rosewood Little Dix Bay: Rosewood Little Dix Bay is currently closed for renovation and therefore no guests were present at the resort and the management team was relocated prior to the storm.
· Scrub Island: All guests and associates are safe.
Condado Plaza Hilton: Minor damage
· El Conquistador Resort: Operational and working on getting all amenities back to normal. The clean-up of the areas in under way and some minor damage is being attended to. Las Casitas Village will reopen when electricity is restored.
· El San Juan Hotel: The team and property are safe. The hotel has received minimal damage and all efforts are being made to re-open as soon as the power is restored.
· Hotel El Convento: All guests, associates and clients are safe. There was no significant damage to the hotel and operations are resuming, including Patio del Níspero & Alegría Patio Bar.
· InterContinental San Juan: Business as usual.
· Rincon Beach: Open for business
· San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel: The hotel sustained no damage, have full power, and is open for business.
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Four Seasons Resort Nevis is reporting the resort is in fine shape and all areas are generally dry
· Hermitage Inn reported general debris and no structural damage
· The Great House and Cottages at Nisbett Plantation Beach Club are in excellent condition. However, there was damage to the Sea Breeze Beach Bar, the decking and the beach.
It has been reported that St. Barth’s was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma which destroyed government buildings and badly damaged private homes and resorts including the Eden Rock Hotel.
ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN
Beach Plaza: Badly damaged
· Hotel Mercure: Damaged
· Oyster Bay Beach Resort: Significant damage
· Riu Palace St. Martin: The infrastructure is severely affected, but hotel has confirmed that all the guests and employees are fine and there is sufficient water and food for all guests and employees.
· Sonesta: All guests and staff of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino & Spa, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino are safe and unharmed. Resort damage is severe. Guests are currently in on-property ‘safe areas’ at the resorts. All further reservations from now through the end of 2017 have been cancelled.
Twenty-seven guests, of Sonesta Sint Maarten Resorts, including the elderly, anyone with a medical condition, women and children, were evacuated on that aircraft. In addition, 25 guests of Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort were evacuated on a United States C130 military aircraft on Friday, 8 September at sundown.
Westin Dawn Beach: Suffered significant damage.
TURKS AND CAICOS
Alexandra Resort, Blue Haven Resort and Beach House: All guests and staff of the three resorts are reported safe and unharmed, and are remaining on property pending further instructions from the authorities on the conditions of roads, electricity and the status of the airport. The resorts have sufficient supplies, food and water to care for all guests in the interim. The resorts sustained some wind and water damage due to the storm, and will be closed for arrivals for 30 days through 8 October.
· Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
· Gansevoort Turks & Caicos, A Wymara Resort: All guests are safe, power off and water is temporarily off, phones are out but cell and internet are working
· La Vista Azul: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
· Ocean Club Resorts: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
· Ports of Call Resort: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
· The Regent Grand: All staff and guests are safe
· Sands at Grace Bay: All is well
· Seven Stars Resort: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
· The Shore Club: All staff and guests are safe
· Villa Del Mar: All guests are safe, power & water off
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (ST. CROIX, ST. JOHN, ST. THOMAS)
The Buccaneer (St. Croix): Open for business. Facilities are in good shape, but there may be some limitation of services over the next few days.
· Caneel Bay (St. John): Complete power outage at the resort.
· Westin St. John Resort Villas (St. John): All associates, owners and guests are safe. The resort and the surrounding areas experienced some damage and overall impact is being assessed.
· Bluebeard’s Castle Resort (St. Thomas): Everyone who was onsite is safe. The property has sustained major damage, which is currently being assessed.
· Point Pleasant Resort (St. Thomas): Everyone at the resort is safe, but without power and cell phone service. The team is currently assessing damage, and will share new information when available.
· Secret Harbour Beach Resort (St. Thomas): All guests and staff are safe. There is no major structural damage to the buildings. The generator is still working.
· Sugar Bay Resort & Spa (St. Thomas): All guests and team members are safe. The damage is being assessed and updated information will be provided when available.
· Windward Passage (St. Thomas): Will be closed for six months.
September 10, 10:45 a.m.
Hurricane Irma Bears Down on Florida Keys
But Pool Still Open at Disney Contemporary Resort in Orlano
Travel journalist Valarie D’Elia was on Facebook Live reporting from the Disney Contemporary Resort in Orlando, and said the pool was still open and there was a lifeguard in attendance. Orlando, she said, was expected to feel the brunt of the storm early Monday morning, but was expected to feel a diminished impact as compared with the coastal areas in Florida.
— Valarie D'Elia (@travelwithval) September 10, 2017
There were many guests, D’Elia said, who took refugee at the property, as their homes were in harm’s way in other areas of Florida and other areas.
September 10, 7 a.m.
As Hurricane Irma’s eye wall hit the Florida keys Sunday morning, it had already left devastation on islands the length of the Caribbean in a trail of destruction that has left 22 people dead so far.
September 10, 1 a.m.
Tourist Evacuations in Cuba and St. Maarten
The Associated Press reports that more than 5,000 tourists were evacuated off northeastern Cuba, and 1,600 more were rescued in St. Maarten, as both countries dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Plans were under way in St. Maarten to evacuate an additional 1,200 travelers.
According to the Associated Press: “More than 5,000 tourists were evacuated from the keys off Cuba’s north-central coast, where the government has built dozens of resorts in recent years, after Hurricane Irma ripped roofs off houses, collapsed buildings and flooded hundreds of miles of coastline as it raked Cuba’s northern coast.
“Prime Minister William Marlin of St. Maarten said about 1,600 tourists had been evacuated and efforts were being made to move 1,200 more.
— Netherlands Embassy (@NLintheUSA) September 9, 2017
The U.S. State Department helped more than 500 Americans fly out of St. Martin, starting with those in need of urgent medical care, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Carol Basch, a 53-year-old tourist from Savannah, Georgia, took refuge during the storm in the bathroom of her St. Martin hotel room after windows shattered. She stayed there praying for about four hours, surrounding herself with pillows.
“I kept saying, ‘Lord, please stop this, and soon, soon,’” said Basch, who was evacuated to Puerto Rico. “I’m glad I’m alive. I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
September 9, 6:30 p.m.
JetBlue Cancels 930 Flights Through September 11
JetBlue said its last flight — before the schedule resumes — left Jacksonville, Flordia at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and the airline has cancelled 930 flights through Monday.
September 9, 3 p.m.
Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Send Ships
Bloomberg reports that Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are dispatching empty ships to St. Thomas and St. Maarten to provide supplies and evacuate stranded tourists. Additionally, Royal Caribbean said it is poised to enter Key West and Tampa, Florida when conditions permit.
“Norwegian expects to pick up 2,000 travelers unable to leave the island of St. Thomas prior to the storm. Its ship, Norwegian Sky, which normally cruises between Miami and the Bahamas, is sailing from its present location off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, and is expected to arrive in St. Thomas Monday.
“The effort is being organized by the government of St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the government will control the passenger list, the company said in a statement.
“Royal Caribbean said two of its vessels would go to St. Thomas and St. Maarten, starting Sunday, and two more were waiting to assist in Key West and Tampa, Florida, should they be needed.
“Cruise lines ended some voyages early and canceled others as Hurricane Irma loomed last week. The humanitarian effort is similar to moves made by airlines.”
September 8, 7:35 p.m.
Travel Agents Concerned About Caribbean Impact
Hurricane Irma left a wake of destruction behind in the Caribbean while those in the path — Cuba, cruise ships, the entire state of Florida, and swaths of the Southeast United States — prepared for a hit.
Cruise lines canceled sailings, altered itineraries to visit Cozumel instead of Key West, and sent ships packed with evacuees and employees out to safety at sea. Several popular port destinations including St. Martin and St. Thomas suffered extensive damage that will likely keep cruise traffic away as they recover.
On Friday, some of Florida’s biggest tourist draws — Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando — announced their theme parks would close for the anticipated impact on Sunday and Monday. SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens, in Tampa, also announced closures on those days.
More than 3,000 flights into and out of Florida had been cancelled for the time when the storm is expected, USA Today reported, and airports in South Florida were suspending operations Friday night.
The toll on islands already hit by the storm was still being calculated. But it is already clear that the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is quickly becoming one of the most active, costliest, and deadliest seasons in more than a decade and travel brands in the Caribbean and United States Southeast and Gulf Coast are bracing for fallout from the storms.
Tourism is the most important industry in many of the impacted islands and areas, and depending on how quickly travelers come back and infrastructure recovers – and especially how cruise lines cancel or adjust itineraries – the fourth quarter of 2017 could be difficult for many travel brands and destinations.
September and the fall season is typically a quieter time of year for Caribbean tourism, which means less immediate fallout from tourism from hurricanes and other storms, said Albert Herrera, Virtuoso‘s senior vice president of global product partnerships. “However, we fully recognize that many islands and our partners on those islands have been severely impacted, and we are waiting to see what it means for our partners in Florida,” said Herrera.
He said that while Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas last month, was enormously damaging, it had less of an impact on tourism just because of the geography.
“No one yet knows how long tourism in the Caribbean and Florida will be waylaid due to Irma,” he said.
John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Network leisure group and hotels, said that if the reports of destruction on some islands that he’s been hearing are true, recovery will take awhile.
“But I think it’s really early to talk about some of these islands since we’re still waiting to re-establish communications with partners in a few cases,” said Lovell, speaking by phone from Orlando, another potential target of Irma. “We expect on Monday and Tuesday for more assessments to start coming out of Caribbean destinations. We’re all concerned because the Caribbean is a huge percentage of our North American business.”
So far this week, Hurricane Irma – one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean – has pummeled Caribbean islands such as Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Martin, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and St. Barthelemy, and severely damaged tourism infrastructure including cruise ports, hotels, and airports, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the region’s tourism board with 28 member countries, said in a statement.
Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the island’s tourism board, said in a statement that major tourism infrastructure and attractions such as the cruise port and airport are operational after Irma passed over the destination.
Marriott International said it’s had hurricane plans in place and that hotels in the impacted area are waiving cancellation and change fees but details will vary depending on the hotel. “Plans are in place to evacuate and close our hotels and offices if local authorities or conditions require such action,” the company said in a statement.
“At this time we have not received any reports of guest or associate injuries. A select number of our hotels in [the Caribbean] have sustained minor to significant damage. We are assessing the extent of impact on each hotel and efforts are underway to fully restore operations in those properties more significantly affected by the storm,” Marriott said.
IHG Hotels tweeted on Friday that pet fees and restrictions for hotels in impacted areas will be waived for the storm, citing that many of the company’s hotels were already pet-friendly before the storm formed.
Hilton said in a statement that its Puerto Rico properties didn’t suffer any significant damage and the company has no reports of guests or staff being affected by the storm. Hilton is waiving cancellation fees for hotels in affected areas of the Caribbean and Florida (including Advance Purchase) with arrivals from September 5 through September 12.
Wyndham called Irma a storm of epic proportions and had begun evacuations at its properties in South Florida on Friday. The company is waiving cancellation fees in areas with expected impact at its branded hotels, vacation ownership resorts, and vacation rentals.
“At properties we directly manage, our teams are coordinating with local authorities, following evacuation and other emergency directives, and taking precautions to best prepare and respond to the storm,” Wyndham said in a statement. “Our teams are also in communication with our many franchised and affiliated resort properties across the region.”
— Sarah Gavin (@sarahwaffle) September 8, 2017
Meanwhile, on the online travel agency front, Expedia Inc. spokeswoman Sarah Gavin tweeted that the Expedia hotel team is trying to ensure that Hurricane Irma don’t get gouged by spiking hotel prices.
September 8, time unknown
Delta Caps Airfares at $399
Seeking to thwart the usual inflation of last-minute airfares during peak demand, Delta capped one-way fares at $399 to and from southern Florida.
One-way fares in all cabins have been capped at $399 for flights to and from southern Florida through Sept. 13.
— Delta (@Delta) September 8, 2017
Skift editors and reporters Deanna Ting, Daniel Peltier and Brian Sumers contributed to these reports.
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