Hurricane Dean Has Little Effect on Tourism

Yours truly was set to travel to Belize last week but instead of enjoying rainforests, I had to settle for the less tropical scenery of my Manhattan cubicle.  Dean's position on August 23

The affected regions could have experienced the same devastation that Hurricane Wilma or Hurricane Ivan brought to tourism but the Caribbean's tourism infrastructure squeaked by virtually unscathed. Here's a recap for those who weren't glued to the National Weather Service reports like myself.

Meet Dean

At press time, Hurricane Dean, the most intense tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin since 2005's Hurricane Wilma, had claimed at least 14 lives and caused about $1.5 to $3 billion in damages. However, most Caribbean islands reported that there was no significant structural damage to any major resort and that all airports were opened just a few days after Dean's arrival. Travel as of the end of last week resumed as normal to most Caribbean destinations. For a complete list of Caribbean property assessments, visit www.travelagentcentral.com/hurricanedean.

Report From Tour Operators

Travel Agent learned that many U.S. operators sending clients to the Caribbean reported Hurricane Dean had very little—if any—impact on business since the storm first struck last week. According to operators we spoke with, many clients changed their vacations as soon as the hurricane warnings were issued, most rebooking for different dates.

Some still decided to fly, and the ones who cancelled will most likely book through the same operator when they do decide to commit to another date, says John Hanratty, chief marketing officer for Travel Impressions.

Travel Impressions had about 2,000 clients whose Caribbean vacations were affected, Hanratty says. Of those, one-third rebooked immediately. The remainder were either already in the Caribbean, covered under travel insurance and rebooked another trip when they got back, and the others canceled, but are expected to rebook.

Eight Apple Vacations' charter flights from various gateways were took off for Cancun International Airport on Wednesday morning after an original planned Tuesday take-off, and a full flight schedule resumed on Thursday. "We didn't really see much of an effect at all," Apple Vacations' Senior Vice President Tim Mullen told Travel Agent. "Many of the big destinations we send clients to were able to escape with little damage. So everything is back to normal."

The Case of Martinique

The tourism-related infrastructure of Martinique received no major damage, but the storm did do massive damage to the economy, wiping out the island's entire banana crop, Muriel Wiltord, director USA and Latin America for the Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA, told Travel Agent last week.

She says the island's key tourism players had an emergency meeting to discuss marketing strategies to significantly increase the number of visitors for next year, since tourism and bananas are the island's two main sources of income. "There's certainly more pressure for us to increase tourism because we have to make up some of the money we lost with the bananas,' Wiltord told us, noting the crops take nine months to harvest.

Also, many of Martinique's rich greenery, such as its tropical gardens and forests, were damaged.

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