Turks & Caicos is Open for Business
The Turks & Caicos Islands are open for winter tourists, rebounding quickly after being ravaged by two hurricanes last fall. The island chain’s resorts reported a strong holiday season of nearly 90 percent occupancy and strong first quarter bookings.
This is great news given the devastation caused by the one-two punch of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and how important tourism is to TCI’s economy. Hurricane Irma made landfall on the Turks & Caicos Islands as a Category 5 Hurricane, which made it the strongest storm to hit the islands in recorded history. The storm tore off roofs, downed trees, and snapped utility poles. Flooding from the rain and storm surge also caused significant damage, forcing the temporary closure of the airport in Providenciales. Hurricane Maria closely followed, battering the islands with winds of up to 125 mph.
Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales suffered no erosion. The Reef, the second longest barrier reef in the world, did the job that nature assigned it and protected the white, sandy beaches of the number one ranked beach in the Caribbean. There is no sign of the Autumn hurricane season whatsoever.
While many TCI resorts escaped without any major damage, many closed for several weeks to make necessary repairs. The Alexandra Report and Spa was up and running in mid-November, while the Beaches Report reopened on December 15. The Grand Turk Cruise Center began receiving ships in November. To start 2018 and the busy winter season, nearly every hotel is fully operational.
The unusually high rainy Caribbean winter has restored most of the palm trees stripped of their palm from the hurricane. The sticks left in the ground have branches again and are beginning to re-green the landscape. The bushes and shrubs have rebounded nicely as well.
As of January 2018, Providenciales looks like it had a neat landscaping job, but there is hardly any evidence of the Autumn devastation. Most businesses are up and running and just about every restaurant is taking reservations.
The Tiki Hut at Turtle Cove is a sad loss. The colorful totem is gone, probably stolen, but the owners are rebuilding the thatched roof restaurant and it will re-open. In the meantime, the traditional Wednesday night “Chicken & Ribs” dinner is still offered at Big Al’s at Salt Mill. While Big Al’s is known for its breakfasts, they make a wonderful Tiki Drink and their dinner menu includes the best Caribbean nacho plate on Provo.
Other Caribbean islands have also been able to rebound quickly, while many others were safely out of the storms’ paths. “More than 70 percent of the Caribbean was not impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria and travelers are discovering the incredible diversity of destinations and offerings throughout the region, as they explore its many vacation options,” stated Frank Comito, director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
Of course, the rebuilding process is proceedings more slowly on some islands, where the devastation was more catastrophic and resources are still arriving. Puerto Rico recently announced last week that its popular tourist areas are open for business, with many of the hotels in and around San Juan reopened and thousands of restaurants now operating.
In St. Maarten, many hotels are still shuttered, and the airport is operating out of a temporary facility. However, its cruise port recently reopened, bringing much needed tourism revenue to the island.