Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Maarten/Martin, Turks and Caicos, the U.S. Virgin Islands. These are the island countries that have dominated the news in the Caribbean since Sept. 6.

To a lesser extent, the news has also included the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Making headlines hour after hour in the past three weeks: Irma and Maria. Nations impacted by severe hurricanes have to lobby the World Meteorological Organization to take hurricane names out of the regular rotation, and I'm pretty sure Irma and Maria will be on the list when this epic Atlantic Basin hurricane season takes a bow.

These dramatic headlines may die down as other events take precedence. After all, the rest of the 30-plus island nations in the Caribbean region not impacted by the furies of Irma and Maria are gearing up for the peak season, which begins in mid-December.

My inbox is filling with offers from hotels and resorts looking to bolster bookings during the current shoulder season, with incentives and value-added options designed to encourage travelers to book and beach at their properties.

For example, Jamaica's tourist board expressed sadness for its neighbors in the northern Caribbean and pointed out that part of the coordination for relief support is being conducted from the country, but it also said that, on Jamaica, it is business as usual for tourism.

"Weather conditions continue to be good in Jamaica," the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) said in a statement to its travel agent partners. "No structural damage to hotels has been reported and resorts are open."

Good for the JTB and the other Caribbean countries that continue to support, promote and encourage tourism to the region, lest potential travelers be dissuaded from visiting because of incorrect assumptions that the entire swath of more than 7,000 islands, encompassing more than one million square miles, have been decimated by hurricanes.

The message from the Curacao Tourist Board in the southern Caribbean, well below the hurricane belt, was more directed to the needs of its storm-impacted colleagues.

"Instead of talking about ourselves, we are utilizing our advertising pace to encourage travelers to help through the relief efforts of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA)," it said.

"We are fortunate to have been outside the path of the storms. Our doors are always open for travelers whose plans have been adversely affected."

Frank Comito, CEO and director general of the CHTA said that 70% of the Caribbean area was not severely affected, adding that islands such as the Bahamas and St. Kitts that were initially hit by Hurricane Irma have "already bounced back."

Comito said that the travel industry and the traveling public could help the region by proceeding with trips to areas that weren't directly impacted. "Less Caribbean business could drive our occupancies down and, as a result, we have consequences not only for the business community but also for employment and Caribbean governments," he said in a statement.

Richie Lupinacci, owner of the Hermitage, a Plantation Inn in Nevis, was grateful that his property suffered minimal damage.

"We are busy helping each other clean up. We are gathering supplies and relief and arranging transport to our island neighbors," he posted in his newsletter.

I think that his final message spoke to what many are feeling these days:

"The Caribbean is many islands, all connected by family and friends. Some have felt the winds of the hurricanes, some have not, but we have all been affected. The Caribbean relies so heavily on tourism and it might be quite some time before some islands are able to welcome visitors again.

"We ask you to know and remember that, collectively, we are still here and we are still #CaribbeanStrong."

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI