After hurricanes, the Caribbean helps the Caribbean

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The Turks & Caicos celebrated its first post-hurricanes destination wedding at Seven Stars Resort & Spa on Grace Bay.
The Turks & Caicos celebrated its first post-hurricanes destination wedding at Seven Stars Resort & Spa on Grace Bay. Photo Credit: Brilliance Studios

It's been five weeks since hurricanes Irma and Maria deposited their fury on several islands in the northeastern Caribbean, and there are signs of progress and hope as recovery moves forward.

On Anguilla, for example, beach bars and restaurants are reopening, roads are cleared, flights are operating from Clayton J. Lloyd airport. And a handful of properties plan to welcome guests for the high season.

The Turks & Caicos, which had some damage from Irma, less so from Maria, celebrated its first post-hurricanes destination wedding at Seven Stars Resort & Spa on Grace Bay.

"With only three days to plan, we are thankful to our exceptional staff for accommodating this couple with a last-minute change of venue," according to a post on the resort's Facebook page.

Airport re-openings include St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Croix, San Juan and St. Barts, albeit with limited service, and several yacht charter companies in the British Virgin Islands will take to the waters again during the high season.

The Caribbean, mapped

Travel Weekly's map and guide to what's open and closed after hurricanes Irma and Maria. See it here.

Still, there is a long recovery road ahead, particularly for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Barbuda and St. Maarten/Martin.

Kudos to the new booking initiative launched Oct. 2 by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), with the double-barreled purpose of helping hurricane-impacted hotels as well as highlighting the more than 70% of unaffected Caribbean destinations.

The CHTA's "One Caribbean Family" movement was created to help the tourism industry get back on its feet and to serve as a hub for hotels, travel advisers and tour operators who want to contribute through guest bookings, according to Karolin Troubetzkoy, the CHTA's president and executive director of Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain resorts in St. Lucia.

Donations made through the initiative are sent to the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund managed by Tourism Cares, which has partnered with the CHTA to anchor the tourism industry's hurricane recovery efforts.

"We want to show our solidarity with the Caribbean countries affected by these storms, not just in words but with actions that can bring relief to those in need," said Troubetzkoy.

She applauded industry partners who have launched fundraising initiatives of their own, but she hopes these will not deter them from also participating in the One Caribbean Family initiative.

"To bring aid to the countries and the people who were affected is an enormous task, and this initiative is a unique way to spread the good word that most of the Caribbean is open for business while at the same time helping those destinations most in need," she said.

Troubetzkoy is leading by example with her company pledging to donate up to $50 for each booking for travel between Oct. 1, 2017, and Dec. 19, 2018.

"We started this pledge for direct reservations and bookings through our travel advisers, but now we have included some wholesalers who will match our donation," she said.

Guests wishing to make additional contributions to the fund receive resort credits up to $250, depending upon their contribution.

"When any part of the region is affected, it hits us so close to home, because the entire Caribbean is our home," Troubetzkoy said. "This is one tangible way our tourism community can stand in solidarity with our neighbors."

Hotels and tourism trade partners who want to participate in the One Caribbean Family promotion and support the campaign should complete the pledge form. Participating hotels and trade partners are showcased online and through a public relations and social media campaign. Donations are tax deductible where applicable and also can be made directly.

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