On September 6, 2017, the British Virgin Islands felt the true force of Hurricane Irma. Its devastating impact not only affected the BVI, but also several Caribbean islands such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Cuba, Florida in the United States and St. Martin.
Hurricane Irma was considered to be the strongest observed in the Atlantic in terms of sustained winds since Hurricane Wilma back in October 2005, and “the most intense hurricane” that struck the continental United States since Hurricane Katrina. Irma’s winds peaked in at 180mph and developed into a Category 5 hurricane with such intensity.
BVI’s Tortola succumbed most of Hurricane Irma’s strength with damages to the entire island reaching close to $4billion. Structures, roads, and businesses felt the power of Irma; Cane Garden Bay saw several of its bars submerged, while a number of the island’s residential zones were almost wiped off. The same impact was also felt by Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda.
News surrounding the impact of Hurricane Irma and the British Virgin Islands came as a worldwide issue considering that the islands is known as one of the most beautiful tourist attractions. This also crippled their economy to the extent that they had to rebuild almost from scratch. BVI’s Tourism Director Sharon Flax-Brutus said in an interview that communication towers and power lines were out of commission during the height of Irma, making it difficult to communicate “and fully assess the damage” of the island.
Today, the British Virgin Island is slowly opening its doors to foreign and local tourists. The Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport is now accommodating commercial evening flights to cater to visitors and to prepare BVI for the upcoming winter season.
With yachting as one of the pillars of BVI’s tourism and economic fronts, the industry is also on the verge of regaining its name as one of the best sailing routes in the world. According to one website, the yachting sector has been welcoming vacationers since November of last year. Local charter boats and ferries are also back in business catering to tourists that hop between islands.
Restaurants and bars who were hit by Hurricane Irma are also rebuilding. Resorts are doing the same in an effort to reignite the tourism industry.
There is no deterring BVI in their thrust to be back in track. With their commitment, mutual support and help from benefactors in and out of the islands, they can and will stand up, just like those that did before them. The whole of the BVI is not only doing their best for their economy, but for their community.
As far as BVI’s cruising and charter thrust is concerned, they are ready. Beaches, tourist spots, dive wrecks and the like are able and waiting to welcome visitors more than ever. To some extent, tourists will be more than willing to explore BVI now more than ever since they are not shy in detailing their efforts of rebuilding. BVI is still world-class; always been and always will be.