BY HOTEL BUSINESS ON OCTOBER 16, 2018
NEW YORK—Virtuoso, the global network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, reports growth in winter bookings in the Caribbean. With 70% of the islands unaffected by last year’s busy hurricane season, and 90% of room inventory open in impacted regions, the islands are coming back.
According to Virtuoso, Caribbean business for January/February 2019 is 21% higher than January/February 2018. For festive season (December 22 – January 3), network bookings are up 8% year over year. It’s important to note that while some islands were still recovering in late 2017, travelers flocked to other destinations. Virtuoso reports particularly strong interest in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Turks & Caicos. Some of the hardest-hit islands, including the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Martin, average a 29% decrease in air bookings for the 2018 holiday period.
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 in October. Most attractions, including El Yunque National Forest, are fully operational.
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 November, with 69% of flights predicted to be back by high season.
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 Oetker Collection and Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France—will open by the end of 2018. Le Guanahani 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 shared that 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, sailing partners quickly returned. Of the more than 60 resort islands, a few are beginning to open. Richard Branson’s Necker Island is welcoming guests starting October 14; Rosewood Little Dix Bay is predicted to come back by the end of 2019.
Virtuoso comprises more than 1,000 travel agency partners with 17,500 travel advisers in 50 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. The network has more than $23.7bn in annual travel sales.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.