Virtuoso Says Caribbean Recovering With JAN-FEB Bookings Up 21%
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
The Caribbean is ready to welcome travellers this winter.
Virtuoso says its members are seeing growth in winter bookings to the Caribbean, after a year of rebuilding in several destinations hit hard by September 2017’s hurricanes.
According to Virtuoso, Caribbean business JAN-FEB 2019 is 21% higher than JAN-FEB 2018. For festive season (22DEC – 3JAN), network bookings are up 8% year over year. Virtuoso advisors report particularly strong interest in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Turks & Caicos.
Advisors are helping spread the message that 70% of the islands of the Caribbean were unaffected by last year’s storms, and 90% of room inventory is open again in impacted regions. In other words, it’s time to go back.
The global luxury and experiential travel network recently gathered industry leaders at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. They used the anniversary of the first consecutive Category 5 storms to hit the region in a decade to discuss the rebound and reasons to visit now.
Anguilla Tiago Sarmento, general manager of Belmond Cap Juluca, said by Q1 2018, most of the island had recovered. More than 70% of Anguilla’s villas and 95% of restaurants have reopened. Three of the five luxury hotels, including Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla, are welcoming guests. Belmond Cap Juluca, which was closed for a $121 million renovation before the storm, is scheduled to reopen 15DEC.
Puerto Rico The island was hit by both hurricanes, but 132 lodging options with more than 10,000 rooms are now open, including the Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan and the historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico will reopen this month. Most attractions, including El Yunque National Forest, are fully operational.
St. Martin Seventy-five percent of the island is up and running, according to Andrea Filippi, vice president of global sales for Belmond, whose property, Belmond La Samanna, will complete a $25 million renovation in time for winter travel season. While the island’s airport was hit, impacting arrivals to St. Martin and feeder islands, 50% of flights have resumed out of its “luxury tent” terminal. The first phase of the airport’s rebuild will be completed in NOV, with 69% of flights predicted to be back by high season.
St. Barths At the start of 2018, 70% of the island was open for guests, according to Martein van Wagenberg, managing director of Le Guanahani. Many buildings are concrete, so did not sustain as much damage as other regions. Beach hotels, including Eden Rock – St Barths, Oetker Collection and Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, were the hardest hit and will open by the end of 2018. Le Guanahani, due to its location between the beach and lagoon, suffered the most damage and will reopen in late 2019. To reach the island, Virtuoso advisors recommend connecting through San Juan or boat access from Anguilla or St. Martin.
British Virgin Islands Deputy Director of Tourism Rhodni Skelton said the destination suffered a 90% loss in tourism over the past year as it was directly hit by both hurricanes. With visitors contributing 60% of the islands’ income, cruise line partners quickly returned. Of the more than 60 resorts on the islands, a few are beginning to open. Richard Branson’s Necker Island is welcoming guests starting 14OCT; Rosewood Little Dix Bay is predicted to come back by the end of 2019.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.