Caribbean's Severe Drought Could Get Worse

Photo by Freeimages.com/Mario Posada

Travel Agent doesn't usually wish for heavy rainfall in a beach destination, especially during hurricane season, but perhaps it's time we all did a collective rain dance for our friends in the Caribbean. 

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the most severe drought to hit the Caribbean in recent years is expected to worsen despite rains from tropical storms that have replenished some reservoirs. Forecasters say the El Nino phenomenon is gathering strength and will continue to warm the tropical Pacific until early next year, which translates into sparse rainfall for this largely parched region as the dry season approaches, according to the AP.

There hasn't been much impact from a tourism perspective, but if the drought continues, many of the Caribbean's green landscapes will start to lose their aesthetic appeal. Also, if the drought continues to get worse, you might start seeing more and more swimming holes and waterfalls depleting. Also, hotel guests could be asked to severely limit their usage of water while on vacation. 

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According to a StarTribune report from June, most large hotels in Puerto Rico have big water tanks, and some recycle wastewater to irrigate green areas, but many have curtailed water use, said Frank Comito, CEO of the Florida-based Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association. According to the report, guests at Puerto Rico's El Canario by the Lagoon hotel get a note with their room keys asking them to keep their showers short amid the water shortage. If the drought continues, you can expect these types of reminders at more hotels throughout the Caribbean.

Back in June, Bloomberg Business reported that the Caribbean is enduring its worst drought in at least five years due to the El Nino weather pattern. The phenomenon, which has dried Canadian wheat fields, caused palm oil prices to rise and risks boosting global food inflation, is leaving some islands with as little as half their average rainfall.

When Travel Agent was in Antigua in August, we were told by tourism industry representatives that the island was experiencing its longest drought in seven years. Both Barbados and Grenada had their third lowest rainfalls in recent history for August, while Haiti saw up to a 50 percent loss in crops in the hardest-hit areas, according to a report from the International Monetary Fund.

The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology issued a report this month saying that many islands in the eastern Caribbean remain in drought, and officials warned that the current wet season will likely end before the traditional date of November 30. According to the AP, the Dominican Republic saw its agricultural production drop nearly 11 percent as a result of drought, and dairy industry officials have warned that production could drop 30 percent by year's end. Jamaica also has struggled with crop losses, especially in the island's eastern region, according to the AP.

According to the Bloomberg Business report, Puerto Rico in June had reduced access to water for almost 350,000 customers. Dominican mango growers were producing less than half of the more than 100 varieties they grow due to a dearth of rain and dependable irrigation systems. In western Jamaica, a brush fire exacerbated by dry conditions destroyed hundreds of acres of the famed Blue Mountain coffee crop.

Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more updates on this story.

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