Week in Review: Florida, Caribbean Continue Recovery

This week’s theme is “recovery.”

Florida continues to recover—not yet even rebuild—from Hurricane Ian, which hit the state as a Category 4 storm last week. According to the office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, there are still over 210,000 power outages. Over 2.4 million account have had their power restored. Cut-and-toss crews have cleared more than 5,200 miles of roadway, which accounts for 97 percent of all accessible roads in the impacted areas.

All deepwater ports are now open. All commercial service airports are now open. Amtrak operations have returned to normal service, apart from Silver Star trains No. 91/92, which suspended rail service beyond Jacksonville. A bus bridge will be provided to Orlando, Tampa and Miami. SunRail returned to a limited service. Seminole Gulf Railway sustained significant damage.

Visit Florida has activated its Emergency Accommodations Module on Expedia to provide real-time hotel availability and lodging resources for impacted Floridians and visitors. Visit Florida is working with Expedia and their partners to encourage flexible pet policies and cancelation/change fees.

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust said that several of its resorts were impacted by Hurricane Ian; however, the company does not expect the costs to repair and remediate damage from the storm to be material. These include the 189-room LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, a waterfront, luxury resort in Naples, and the 119-room Inn on Fifth, located in downtown Naples. Separately, Luminary Hotel & Co. has reopened following Hurricane Ian and is ready to welcome guests back to all of its dining outlets (with the exception of The Silver King Ocean Brasserie) with limited menus and hours.

Naples Grande Beach Resort announced it will reopen Monday, October 10. Hotel guests and locals will be able to experience all the resort’s amenities and services, including six on-site restaurants, spa and fitness center, three pools and tennis club. At this time, Rhode’s End and access to Clam Pass Beach will remain closed until further notice as the resort works with local officials to reopen in the near future.

In addition, Meliá Orlando Celebration has partnered with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to assist the Osceola Country community. Opening its doors to families, healthcare workers and its own hotel employees, Meliá Orlando Celebration offers discounted rates, waived pet fees, essential foods and more to help recover its beloved community. 

News From the Caribbean

I Heart Puerto Rico sign outside the Puerto Rico Convention Center

Heading to the Caribbean, Travel Agent was on site in Puerto Rico, where we saw very few effects from Hurricane Fiona in San Juan. (That said, the storm hit the island in the southwest and many in this region are still without power.) Most of the tourist destinations and accommodations were spared, aside from El Yunque National Forest, which is closed as damage is being assessed.

In some positive news, however, the Caribbean as a whole is continuing its strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) President Nicola Madden-Greig at the 40th Caribbean Travel Marketplace, held in San Juan, shared data showing the Caribbean is in “growth” mode post-COVID. It’s the only region in the world who was up over 2019 levels of arrivals for Q3 2022; the numbers are even better for Q4.

“With everything that we have done in terms of upgrading our rooms, our attractions or destinations in general, the Caribbean is coming out as the destination of choice,” she said. “But we must ensure that it continues to be the destination of choice into 2023 and beyond.”

In other news from the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, Madden-Greig said the CHTA would launch a “Certified Caribbean Travel Advisor” program next year. It would showcase all of the destinations and islands in the region, so travel advisors can become more familiar with all of the options, beyond just the popular islands and hotel brands.

At the same event, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett outlined the steps Jamaica is taking to ensure that its tourism sector remains safe from future shocks and disruptions. Among the most important were diversification, sustainability and price integrity. Bartlett also coined February 17 as “Global Tourism Resilience Day.” The idea is the day “would also encourage larger states to provide support and assistance to small highly tourism-dependent countries in the area of resilience building,” according to Bartlett.

Mindful Travel

Kauai Beach

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) and the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau (KVB) have launched an educational video series that showcases the island’s dedication to regenerative tourism. The videos focus on enabling travelers to understand Kaua‘i’s culture, environment and pono (mindful) travel, prior to arrival.

Said Sue Kanoho, executive director, KVB: “The cultural value of mālama (to care for and protect) is central to our way of life, and this video series is designed to advocate this value and to educate visitors and residents.”

In addition, the “For Good, For Travel” not-for-profit project has launched to assist travel advisors in helping their clients understand specific and simple actions they can take to travel more sustainably. For Good, For Travel calculates a daily travel donation suggestion based on each country’s progress toward achieving their overall goal; the project also gives users the option to focus their education and giving on specific goals, such as hunger, equality, conservation and more.

Along similar threads, an Accessibility Hub has been added to the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef destination website to assist travelers with mobility impairment select activities and itineraries for trips to Tropical North Queensland. The hub allows for people who need to consider accessibility to easily find accommodation options, from specialized providers to traditional hotels.

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