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One Year After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, British and US Virgin Islands Make Progress


© Travalliancemedia Owned Media (Staff Photo) The U.S. Virgin Islands is recovering strongly from September's crippling storms.

By Brian Major, TravelPulse

September 2018 marks one year since back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes wracked several Caribbean destinations. Both the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands suffered heavy storm damage, with the former hit hard by Irma and the latter fairly leveled by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
As we continue to monitor the Caribbean storm season, TravelPulse takes a look back at the recovery in both territories since Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria hit last September.

Hurricane Irma took a heavy toll on the British Virgin Islands (B.V.I.). B.V.I. Tourist Board (BVITB) representatives estimated tourism industry damage $2.15 billion, including properties, charter boats, and marinas. Officials have said the estimate does not cover all tourism-related infrastructure, just private sector damage.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Virgin Islands suffered widespread damage from both Irma and Maria. The storms killed four people on St. Thomas, wrecked public and hospitality sector infrastructure across St. Thomas and St. John knocked out electrical power across the entire territory.

The territory also struggled with impaired roads, weakened infrastructure, sunken boats that hampered navigation and closed beaches. The U.S. Virgin Islands reportedly received $800 million in emergency loans from a $36.5 billion disaster recovery bill approved last year by the U.S. Congress last year.

One Year Later, B.V.I. has made “excellent progress” toward restoring its tourism product in the past year, BVITB officials say. The territory’s crucial charter yacht sector returned to operation in November 2017, while the first cruise ship calls followed in December.

Several signature resorts throughout the islands have re-opened, including Cooper Island Beach Club, Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina (partial re-opening), Oil Nut Bay, Anegada Beach Club, and Guana Island.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, more than 50 percent of accommodations across the territory are open and accepting guests. Other properties, according to Beverly Nicholson-Doty, U.S. Virgin Islands’ tourism commissioner, continue to repair or rebuild.

Approximately 1,050 rooms are now available on St. Thomas, while nearly 150 are available on St. John, and another 600 on St. Croix. Major hotels and resorts including Marriott Frenchman’s Cove, Wyndham Margaritaville and Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas; The Buccaneer on St. Croix and Gallows Point on St. John have all re-opened.

Tourism officials worked closely with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to quickly resume cruise calls and access to popular beaches in early 2018.

“Our cruise calls are back on schedule and we have the restaurants, activities, and shopping back,” Nicholson-Doty said. The U.S. Virgin Islands’ cruise season runs from October to October, she said, meaning “for 2017, we will end the year at just over 1.5 million cruise passengers. Considering we missed 60 days, we will finish the year [only] slightly lower.”

“We recognize that based on limited inventory in the first few months of 2018, the dialogue is on ensuring we have marketing dollars on the federal and local levels," she added. "I feel confident about that and I also feel there is a lot opportunity for development to happen.”

Several B.V.I. resorts, including the Biras Creek Resort, Necker Island and Scrub Island, will re-open in late 2018. The Bitter End Yacht Club will re-open in 2019, while Rosewood Little Dix Bay will reopen in 2019 or 2020.

In the storms’ aftermath, the BVI Department of Disaster Management has launched a Disaster Alert App designed to improve alert notification. Shortly after the storms, the government teamed up with Pledgeling to launch the BVI Recovery Fund, which remains active.

Finally, the BVI recently launched Seeds of Love, a program to replant the islands’ indigenous trees and vegetation.

In the U.S.V.I., top resorts expected to re-open next year include St. Thomas’ Ritz Carlton and Sugar Bay Resort & Spa; St. Croix’s Caravelle Hotel & Casino; Divi Carina Bay Resort & Casino; Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa and the Caneel Bay and Westin St. John Resort & Villas properties on St. John.

Government officials are exploring several initiatives to address future storms said Nicholson-Doty.

“Our responsibility as we rebuild is to determine not only how we make our infrastructure stronger but how we make it more visitor-friendly for the people who visit.”


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Travel - U.S. Daily News: One Year After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, British and US Virgin Islands Make Progress
One Year After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, British and US Virgin Islands Make Progress
Travel - U.S. Daily News
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