Last updated: 04:38 PM ET, Fri October 14 2016

How Caribbean Destinations Are Working To Recover From Matthew

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | October 14, 2016

How Caribbean Destinations Are Working To Recover From Matthew

PHOTO: Haiti’s Jacmel district was severely impacted by Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Brian Major).

All impacted to some degree by hurricanes Matthew and Nicole, government and tourism officials in Haiti, the Bahamas and Bermuda each worked to return normalcy to everyday life and their visitor infrastructure this week following widespread storm damage.

Officials in Haiti, the most seriously impacted country, say most of the nation’s tourism infrastructure remains intact despite Hurricane Matthew’s impact on Haiti’s southern peninsula, where several tourism sites, including the art-producing town of Jacmel, are located. Most of the country’s largest hotels, located primarily in and around the capital city of Port au Prince, are open and operating, said Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) officials.

Packing 145 mph winds, the storm killed more than 1,000 residents, flooded several areas of the country and destroyed homes and businesses. Thousands of Jacmel residents are now living in shelters according to a Miami Herald report.

Nevertheless, officials at the Ministry of Tourism of Haiti, the Haiti Tourism Association and the National Network of Solidarity Tourism Operators said in a statement that “90 percent of our tourism infrastructure has not been affected and is ready to welcome guests.”

While they say “we are working relentlessly to bring support to our fellow citizens in this difficult time” and expressed sympathy for Matthew’s victims, the officials added that “Traveling to Haiti for leisure, business or to visit friends and families is a positive and constructive way to support the economy as it promotes employment and sustainability.”

Increased visits will “help us drive resources to the most needed areas in a sustainable manner,” they added.

It the Bahamas, the tourism-intensive Nassau Paradise Island resort district sustained “minimal damage” said officials at the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board and Paradise Island Tourism Development Association.

“Member hotels and resorts were well-prepared for the storm and sustained minimal damage,” they said in a statement. “Clean-up efforts began immediately following the storm’s passing.”

The most severe damage occurred on Grand Bahama Island, North and Central Andros, and the Berry Islands said CHTA officials. The Freeport district is also recovering slowly as electrical power is just being restored this week according to local news reports. The Grand Isle Resort & Spa in the Bahamas’ Exuma section did not sustain damage from Hurricane Matthew said the hotel’s general manager.

Hurricane Nicole ripped off roofs, flooded roads and homes, felled trees and knocked out electrical power in some areas, but there were no casualties or catastrophic damage reported. Bermuda's government dispatched crews to clear roads and engineers to inspect infrastructure.

CHTA officials are urging regional tourism stakeholders to “assist with both immediate and sustained relief efforts to support the people of Haiti and parts of the Bahamas” in Matthew’s wake.

"Our neighbors in Haiti and The Bahamas have borne the brunt of this powerful storm and the recovery and restoration process will be long and difficult," said Karolin Troubetzkoy, CHTA’s president.

CHTA is directing tourism industry stakeholders to local organizations which are coordinating on-the-ground relief, accepting and directing donations of cash, equipment and supplies.CHTA is developing a fundraising initiative through the online auction channel Regional hoteliers have been invited to donate room nights for the auction to benefit residents in Haiti and The Bahamas.

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