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Typically forming from the beginning of June until the end of November, hurricanes are no strangers to the Caribbean. Just about every island has weathered a storm from the no-name twister that slammed the Cayman Islands in 1932 to Hurricane Donna in 1960, Luis in 1995, Ivan in 2004 and Wilma one year later. In early September, it was Irma’s turn to unleash her unforgiving fury.

Although many sun destinations like Jamaica, Cayman Islands, arbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, Martinique and St. Vincent were untouched by one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, other islands like St. Maarten, Anguilla, Barbuda, Cuba, Turks & Caicos and the US and British Virgins were not as fortunate. Hot on Irma’s heels, Maria came calling leaving massive destruction in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Dominica. Rebounding after minimal damage, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Antigua and St. Kitts are again open for tourists.

With dogged determination and unshakeable faith, the hurricane-affected islands that are home to family for many Canadians and cherished vacation spots to others are on an mission to rebuild and reopen.

“Tourism is the quickest way to rebound an economy,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). “By working together; we will build a better and more resilient Caribbean.”

Caribbean Strong

Aid came quickly from not only those who live on the battered islands but from their Caribbean neighbours, tourists, expats and governments worldwide. There are extraordinary stories of friends helping friends, strangers lending a hand and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Jay-Z, Cuban rapper Pit Bull and British billionaire Richard Branson stepping up to the plate with supersized donations and musical fundraisers.

Air Canada and Global Medic delivered supplies to Cuba, St. Maarten and Antigua and Scotiabank donated USD $500,000 to various organizations like the Canadian Red Cross. “We are committed to the region, and will support our customers and employees during these challenging times,” said Brian Porter, president and CEO, Scotiabank.

In Anguilla, Montrealer Nori Evoy who moved to the island 10 years ago and created the website anguilla-beaches.com set up ‘Help Anguilla Rebuild Now ‘with funds going to the Anguilla Red Cross.

“Anguillians are a resilient people, particularly in the face of adversity,” said the Hon. Victor Banks, chief minister. “We are one family and we intend to be open for business before the Christmas season.” — https://ivisitanguilla.com

Perennially popular with Canadians, Turks & Caicos Islands are back on track with many resorts already open (all of them will open by mid-December) and beaches that are postcard-perfect.

“We have persevered and came through with high spirits,” said Hon. Ralph L. Higgs, minister tourism. “While you are vacationing with us, you are helping to rebuild our islands and returning normal lives to our people.” — http://turksandcaicostourism.com

In harder hit St. Maarten, Sunwing canceled flights from Montreal through April 30 replacing them with additional flights to Cancun. As a nod to the island, Sunwing Travel Group purchased the 257-room Great Bay Beach Resort Casino & Spa, effective November 1. “Despite the damage, we are committed to the redevelopment of the resort and look forward to contributing meaningfully to the island’s economy,” said Stephen Hunter, CEO, Sunwing Travel Group. — www.sunwingtravelgroup.com

In Nevis, hotels and resorts are full steam ahead for a busy holiday season.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have weathered these catastrophic storms that came virtually back to back and devastated so many others in the Caribbean,” said Greg Phillip, CEO, Nevis Tourism Authority. “So our good news is bittersweet as we welcome guests and look forward to a healthy festive season, but our hearts and minds are never far from our neighbours.”

Hotel heroes were plenty like Nisbet Plantation general manager Tim Thuell, who took in guests evacuated from other islands and treated them to dinner and a game of cards. “We are just humble hoteliers doing our jobs”, he smiled wading through the front lawn. — www.nevisisland.com

In Cuba, airports in Cayo Coco and Santa Clara will reopen next month.

“Our commitment is not limited to recovering from the effects of the hurricane,” noted Manuel Marrero Cruz, minister tourism. “But that as a final result we will have a higher quality tourist product.”

Hotels in Havana and Varadero are already open or will open in November. — www.gocuba.ca/en/

“We are most definitely encouraging Caribbean travel,” said Lisa Salter, travel agent, Destination Vacances, “I tell my clients that when they visit the resorts affected by the hurricanes, those resorts will be in tip-top shape.” — www.destinationvacances.ca

Air Canada Vacations is rebooking flights that were interrupted by the storms. “Our goal is to ensure that our travel agent partners can book with confidence and our guests return home with a positive vacation experience,” said Nino Montagnese, managing director, ACV. — http://vacations.aircanada.com

Lend a hand

The best way to assist is to travel to the islands as so much of the Caribbean is reliant on tourism as its economic lifeblood. To lend a financial hand, there are many options including the Caribbean Hurricane Tourism Recovery Fund (www.tourismcares.org/caribbean) and Caribbean Tourism Organization Relief Fund (www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto). For post-hurricane updates, go to http://caribbeantravelupdate.com

The original article can be found here: http://www.thesuburban.com/life/lifestyles/caribbean-strong-open-for-business/article_1acf7754-ec71-5d0a-96f9-e4570aed2c01.html

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