Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

So where we go from here?

It's been almost two weeks since Hurricane Irma slammed through the northeastern Caribbean, decimating hotels, airports, livelihoods and much of the tourism industry in the region.

The recovery efforts are taking shape, the relief supplies are arriving, the military has boots on the ground to maintain order and secure the safety of those who are trying to pick up the pieces of their businesses, homes and lives.

It will be a long road to recovery. Many destinations will need months to recover while others have already bounced back, including Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Antigua, which had far less damage. Even Cuba, where water stood five feet deep in the streets of Havana, has reopened its airport and its cruise port.

Updates pour in daily from some of the resorts, optimistically trumpeting tentative opening dates. Funds have been set up for the affected islands as a whole, led by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association in partnership with Tourism Cares. The Caribbean Tourism Organization also launched a fund.

Many fundraising efforts are island-specific or resort-specific, targeting hotel employees and staff who have lost not only their jobs but also their homes.

The loyalty and concern of visitors for resorts and islands they love and have traveled to year after year to celebrate life's milestones is impressive. Most messages echo the hope that these resorts will rebuild and reopen, that the now-brown stripped landscapes will green up and bloom and that the paradise they love will be reborn.

"The motto is, from my point of view, one day at a time, we will rise," said Mark Vanterpool, minister of communication and works, for the British Virgin Islands, an archipelago of stunningly beautiful islands that felt the Category 5 wrath of Irma.

The devastating impact of Irma in this region cannot be understated. Although some of these islands won't be tourism-ready anytime soon, we don't write them off, and we don't forget them.

Instead of the heartbreaking images of resorts turned to rubble, which we have seen countless times, I want photos of Garvey, the owner of Sunshine Shack on Anguilla, hammering away at his new bar, pallets of water finally arriving on St. Maarten and construction workers rebuilding the roof of the L'Esperance airport in Grand Case, St. Martin.

"The affected countries are getting on with the business of rebuilding," said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO.

Riley also pointed out that the Caribbean encompasses a large swath of real estate. "Irma grazed only a small portion of it. The whole Caribbean has not been closed for business."


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