by Beth J. Harpaz, The Associated Press, October 18, 2017
The travel industry is ramping up efforts to remind consumers that many Caribbean islands were unaffected by hurricanes and that their economies depend on tourism.
Tourism agencies and travel companies are promoting deals, events and fundraising efforts while reinforcing the basic message that most islands were unscathed by the storms and are eager for visitors.
The Travel Leaders travel agency, for example, has launched a "consumer-awareness campaign to promote Caribbean destinations that are open for business for fall and winter travel," with agents becoming "ambassadors" for the region by providing travelers with information on conditions and packages.
"This hurricane season has been devastating for a number of Caribbean islands, but the negative economic impact on the region will be compounded if visitors avoid travel to unaffected destinations," Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko said in a statement. Travel Leaders Group is also raising money for hurricane victims and impacted communities through its Family Bonds Foundation.
A new website, CaribbeanIsOpen.com, is part of a million-dollar initiative funded by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.
"This initiative is also a vital tool to assisting the Caribbean by stimulating the economy," the group's president, Michele Paige, said in a statement. "Many Caribbean destinations fortunately missed any impact from the hurricanes, and most affected destinations worked around the clock to reopen for tourism."
The website notes that even destinations that saw some damage from the hurricanes are starting to host cruise visits, such as Key West, Florida, and St. Kitts.
Royal Caribbean announced that its ship Adventure of the Seas will resume port calls to St. Thomas on Nov. 10, and that the ship hopes to be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Martin by the end of November.
AAA Travel is also launching a "Caribbean is Open for Business" campaign, calling the region a top AAA-recommended destination for fall and winter getaways, listing Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks & Caicos.
In Dominica, the Secret Bay resort set up a fundraising page to benefit staff after many of its regular visitors from past years asked how they could help.
Turks and Caicos is advertising its annual Caribbean Food & Wine Festival in Providenciales, Nov. 2-5, noting that the not-for-profit festival will raise funds for Turks & Caicos educational institutions damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Skylark.com, a luxury vacation site, sent out a plea for donations to the official website for the recovery of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Skylark added that "much of the Caribbean was completely unaffected," with a link to the website's "ideas on where to go."
Even islands that suffered no storm damage are on a mission to make themselves visible. One public relations agency sent out a press release noting that the Bahamas were "fortunate to have come out of the 2017 hurricane season without impact to the country's primary tourism product," adding for good measure that there have been no documented cases of Zika virus there since November 2016.
Antigua is promoting its Dec. 5-9 Yacht Charter Show along with island resorts like Curtain Bluff, Verandah and St. James's, which recently underwent renovations.
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