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Post-Hurricanes, Is the Caribbean Open for Business?

By Cindy Loose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page P01

The images of successive hurricanes slamming the Caribbean have scared off tourists in droves, forcing even resorts not remotely touched to offer deals.

The devastation in Grenada, Haiti, Grand Cayman and two islands in the Bahamas has been well-documented. What's missing from the reports is the non-news: the rest of the Caribbean islands, which either escaped altogether or suffered only scattered or minimal damage.

Unlike some of its Caribbean neighbors, Nevis is up and running after the hurricanes and its Mount Nevis Hotel is offering deals to attract visitors. (Michael Ventura)

_____Islands Fall/Winter 2004_____
Punta Cana Made Easy
Punta Cana Resorts (pdf file)
After Hurricanes, Is Caribbean Open for Business?
Caribbean Map and Contacts

"Anytime something of this magnitude hits any part of the Caribbean, it has an impact on the whole region because people don't have the perspective of how huge the area is, or how localized storm damage can be," said Richard Kahn, head of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

The islands of the Caribbean are spread out over more than a thousand miles, the same distance between Florida and Maine, Kahn notes. Even so, misperceptions have so affected bookings that resorts throughout the region are offering deals.

"Sales and promotions are coming out of the woodwork," says Kahn. Although deals are common for the soft shoulder season of October and November, the deals are bigger and more numerous than usual, he said, and many of them remain good until mid-December or so, the start of peak season.

When the CTO asked its members to e-mail The Washington Post with examples, we were overwhelmed with responses. Typically, hotels and resorts offering deals are discounting rates by at least 20 percent; adding free nights to a stay; or tacking on benefits, such as a free car rental, spa treatments or activities.

The Caribbean area was first hit in late August with Hurricane Charley, and in the following September weeks was slammed in quick succession by Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. The islands that escaped all four monsters unscathed include: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Bart's, St. Martin/St. Maarten, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the CTO. Bermuda, which is not in the Caribbean, was also unaffected.

Most are trying to counter the hurricane fallout with deals. With few exceptions, deals are good until Dec. 15 or 20, before the Christmas holiday rush. Kahn said only time will tell if resorts will be forced to extend discounts into the height of winter season.

If you don't care about which island you visit, the best way to find a pre-Christmas deal is to ask a travel agent. If you already have an island in mind, contact that island's tourism department for a list of deals. If you are partial to a particular property, call it directly and ask about special breaks.

Meanwhile, here is a brief sampling of deals on islands not hit by hurricanes. Some restrictions may apply.

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