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Great Abaco Island, one of many in the Bahamas (and in the rest of the Caribbean region) that were untouched by the hurricanes.
Great Abaco Island, one of many in the Bahamas (and in the rest of the Caribbean region) that were untouched by the hurricanes.

When Karine Mousseau, tourism commissioner for Martinique, addressed the press during SOTIC, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s annual State of the Industry Conference, she assured us that Martinique had been spared from the destructiveness of hurricanes Irma and Maria. However, she added, “Tomorrow it could be us. We are one Caribbean family,” and she fought back tears.

This is a dramatic time for the Caribbean, so it’s a dramatic meeting at the SOTIC, here in Grenada. Although the official and long-established theme of the conference is “Super-Charging the Caribbean Brand: Meeting the Needs of the New Explorers,” this has turned into a meeting with two agendas: the official one and a latecomer that I’ll call “How to Respond to the Aftermath of the Hurricanes.” So before we get into supercharging the brand (and, knock wood, your business) as well as country updates, a few quotes on how people in Caribbean tourism are responding to the questions raised by Irma-Maria.

“For us at the CTO, the 2017 State of the Tourism Industry Conference will be remembered as an event that created tremendous ambivalence. Should we or should we not [even] have a conference at this time?… How do we balance the competing realities that for some, normality has come to a screeching halt — against the inevitability that life must go on?” — Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization

Joy Jibrilu, director general for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and chair of the CTO Board of Directors.
Joy Jibrilu, director general for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and chair of the CTO Board of Directors.

“How do we let people know we’re operational without being insensitive to countries that have been devastated by the hurricanes? We’re looking for balance. ” — Joy Jibrilu, director general for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and chair of the CTO Board of Directors

“If you want to help the Caribbean, you should travel to the Caribbean.” — Sec. General Riley

“The day after a hurricane you think the world has come to an end, but then you find that the debris can be brushed away.” — Cardigan Connor, Anguilla’s parliamentary secretary with responsibility for tourism

Cardigan Connor, Anguilla's parliamentary secretary with responsibility for tourism .
Cardigan Connor, Anguilla’s parliamentary secretary with responsibility for tourism .

“People are geographically unaware of where the islands are located, or which were affected, will mean a last-minute booking trend.” — Caroline Galichan-Hurley, Virgin Holidays

“The hurricanes are the elephant in the room. If you’re not ready to receive visitors, don’t say you are. Women don’t like surprises.” — Stephanie Oswald, editor-in-chief TravelGirl Magazine and Emmy Award-winning journalist at CNN

“If you don’t choose Anguilla, please choose another Caribbean island.” — Connor, Anguilla

For island-by-island reports on what both the unlucky and the lucky Caribbean countries are doing now and in the coming months, click here.