Some destinations preparing for Hurricane Maria were still bailing out from Hurricane Irma and the succession of intense hurricanes will have a long-term impact on many aspects of the region's tourism industry.
Hurricane Maria, a category five hurricane as of 5:00p.m. ET on September 19, is barreling through the Caribbean and targeting some of the same countries hit by Hurricane Irma earlier this month.
The storm is expected to make landfall as a category four hurricane (130-150 mile per hour winds) on Puerto Rico, which was mostly spared any destruction by Hurricane Irma except for widespread power outages, during Wednesday afternoon.
Before Maria hit, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company told Skift that its tourism infrastructure was in good shape post-Irma. “We’ve been open for business on the tourism front for a while post-Irma, and feel very confident we have the right preparedness plans in place [to recover quickly from Hurricane Maria],” said José Izquierdo, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
“We’re fortunate to have recovered very well from Irma,” he said. “Our tourism infrastructure has been fully operational and we have continued to welcome visitors to the island these past few weeks. While it’s too soon to tell, we feel optimistic it will be ‘business as usual’ across our major hotel and tourism attractions as soon as possible after Hurricane Maria.”
Dominica, an island located between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the eastern Caribbean, was devastated by the storm, The New York Times reported. As of Tuesday, hurricane warnings were in effect for Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, Vieques, and part of the Dominican Republic. The U.S. and British Virgin Islands were particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Irma.
It’s still unclear whether Hurricane Maria will impact the United States with hurricane models as of 5:00p.m. ET on Tuesday indicating the storm’s track will leave the Caribbean and turn north/northwest by Sunday.
Here’s how the travel industry is responding so far:
Guadeloupe, September 20
“Hurricane Maria did not hit directly the archipelago, however strong winds and heavy precipitations were experienced across the five islands, especially in the south of Basse Terre, Les Saintes, and Marie Galante,” said Annick Girardin, French Minister for the Overseas Department of France, in a statement. “Occasional flooding occurred in localized areas of Pointe-à-Pitre, Grande Terre.
The Guadeloupe Islands are now under grey alert, which means that the population is asked to refrain from using their vehicles to facilitate the cleanup of trees and branches off the roads and help crews to safely restore power lines and service to the 80,000 users left in the dark after Hurricane Maria.
Within two to three days, things will be back to normal in the Islands of Guadeloupe. The Guadeloupe Islands suffered no infrastructural damage. However, we deeply deplore the loss of two lives.
Dominica, September 19
“Initial reports are of widespread devastation,” said Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerri. “So far we have lost all that money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.
So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof of my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside. Come tomorrow morning we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble.
It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days.”
Carnival Corporation, September 18
Carnival issued the following statement on Hurricane Maria: “We are currently monitoring the track of Hurricane Maria in the Atlantic and will inform our guests who are sailing within the next two weeks of any impact to their Caribbean itineraries once the storm has passed. Our website will be updated by Wednesday at 12:00p.m.”
Carnival also posted itinerary updates on its Facebook page.
Many passengers were tweeting the cruise line their concerns on Tuesday about the storm – and its long-term impact on the Caribbean (see example below).
Royal Caribbean International, September 19
Royal Caribbean issued the following statement on Hurricane Maria on Tuesday: “We are closely monitoring Hurricane Maria’s forecast track, and have modified both Adventure of the Seas and Allure of the Seas current itineraries to keep our guests and crew well out of the path of the storm. Our goal remains to provide notice of any future itinerary changes within a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure.
Specifically, for the 9/23 departure of Adventure of the Seas, we will provide further details no later than early Thursday afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors in San Juan as they prepare for Hurricane Maria.”
The cruise line also detailed modifications to future itineraries due to impact from hurricanes on its website.
Marriott International, September 19
Marriott issued the following statement on Hurricane Maria on Tuesday: “We are continuing to closely monitor the path of Hurricane Maria. Our hotels in the current path of the storm have implemented storm preparation protocols. We have established hurricane plans and our hotel teams are well-trained to implement these plans. In addition, we are in close contact with local authorities and, as always, will take guidance and direction from them as the situation warrants it.
Plans are in place to evacuate and close our hotels if local authorities or conditions require such action. We encourage those planning to visit the storm area to check the news of the storm for the most current information and amend their travel plans accordingly. Hotels in the impacted area are waiving hotel cancellation and change fees but details will vary depending on the hotel.”
Photo credit: A road is empty in Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte / Associated Press