In 2017, the Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines were battered by hurricane after hurricane. Many of the region’s most popular tourist destinations were affected, including Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Barbados, Turks and Caicos, and the Florida Keys. Thousands of flights were grounded, and hundreds of thousands of passengers had their travel plans interrupted, delayed or canceled entirely.
Now, as meteorologists predict that the worst weather has passed, travelers are starting to wonder whether or not to visit these popular Caribbean resort destinations in the upcoming months. As all-inclusive vacation package prices fall, the winds die down, and communities return to their daily routines, it’s the perfect time to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of visiting a resort that was recently affected by a hurricane.
Often, airlines and resorts will slash their prices after a natural disaster. After all, a room or seat that has been sold cheaply is better for business than one that sits vacant. During a regular hurricane season prices at Caribbean resorts will often drop by as much as 35%, and travelers booking last-minute vacations, to destinations recently hit by the 2017 hurricanes, could easily see prices drop by half. To find the cheapest post-hurricane rates, set up a fare alert on your phone or contact a local travel agent.
Some meteorologists predicted that the rest of the 2017 hurricane season would be relatively mild. Despite this, many travelers who were considering a Caribbean vacation looked to other beach destinations like California, the Mediterranean and even Southeast Asia. For those who risk a trip to the Caribbean, they can expect the smaller crowds to lead to shorter lines at the airport check-in counters, fewer people at the hotel buffet and more personalized service from staff across the Caribbean tourism industry.
Supporting the Recovery
Many of the islands hit by hurricanes in 2017 depend on tourism as the primary driver of their local economy. When you travel to a destination that was recently hit by a hurricane your dollars go towards recovery efforts and helping life get back to normal. When you choose locally-owned hotels, restaurants and tour operators, your positive impact is even more powerful because your money is going directly to local employees.
Just because a resort is open after a hurricane doesn’t mean that it is operating as usual. Guests are likely to find a reduction in amenities, such as closed swimming pools, limited watersports and reduced offerings in the hotel restaurant. Before you hit the “reserve” button you should contact the hotel directly to ask about their current state of operations. Don’t assume that more amenities will be restored between the time you inquire and the time you visit.
One of the best things about a tropical vacation is the feeling of leaving all of your worries back home. Thus, many travelers feel uncomfortable relaxing on a beach when they know the bartender who is pouring their drinks may be going home to a house without electricity. Although it is never recommended to vacation in the middle of an active disaster zone, it is important to remember just how many residents have livelihoods that rely on continued tourism once that disaster has passed. If you still feel guilty, consider donating to a local charity or spending one of your vacation days volunteering in the community.
Although it was predicted that the rest of the 2017 hurricane season would be much calmer, meteorologists cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy. There are risks associated with travel at any time of year and hurricane season along the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts is no exception. Your need to weigh the benefits of traveling in hurricane season (like cheap flights, discounted hotel rooms and fewer crowds) against the possibility of a storm affecting your getaway.
If You Decide to Go
So, you’ve decided that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and you’re ready to book a trip to a Caribbean resort that was recently hit by a hurricane? Follow these simple tips to reduce your risk and to make the most of your time in the sun:
- Remember to confirm available amenities with the resort directly before you reserve any part of your trip. Don’t rely on a third-party online booking agency to provide accurate information about the resort’s current operations.
- Ensure that you have valid travel insurance that will cover your costs in case of a weather emergency. Remember that insurers will only cover costs associated with events that arise after you purchase, so buy your travel insurance before any hurricanes are forecast.
- Pack extra essentials (including medicine, personal hygiene products and baby formula, as appropriate) in case inclement weather adds a few unexpected vacation days to your trip.
Keep these essentials in your carry-on baggage so that they’re with you at all times.
- Support locally-owned businesses rather than major multinational corporations. This keeps more of your money in the local community where it directly benefits recovery efforts.
- Consider bringing an extra suitcase full of medical supplies, school supplies, clothing or toys. You can reach out to a local hospital, school or non-profit organization before you go to see if there are any particular areas of need. If you don’t have room in your luggage, a financial donation is always appreciated as well.
Only you can decide whether traveling to a resort in a region recently hit by a hurricane is right for you. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully, and make sure to follow the guidelines noted above if you decide on a holiday in a hurricane zone. With proper planning and realistic expectations, it just might turn out to be your cheapest and most enjoyable holiday ever.