Caribbean islands offer hurricane guarantees

Nancy Trejos
The beach and resort hotel district of Cancun, Mexico.
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The Caribbean was whipped by two hurricanes last year--Irma and Maria. But even those islands that were most affected by the storms are open for business and asking tourists to return.

Right now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a near-normal hurricane season for the Atlantic region, which includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane season runs from May 1 to Nov. 30.

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Peak summer travel season is on the horizon, and some Caribbean islands and hotels are trying to assuage people's concerns by offering "hurricane guarantees."

"The Caribbean remains as vibrant and welcoming as ever. We're projecting a year-over-year increase in visitor arrivals for (the fourth quarter), which speaks volumes to consumer confidence in the region," says Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism has launched a "Worry Free Hurricane Guarantee," a promise made by its partners on the islands to cover any cancellations made before arrival and compensation if vacation time is cut short due to bad weather.

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The guarantee includes a full refund of accommodation fees at participating hotels, condos and villas island-wide. As soon as a hurricane watch is issued by authorities, travelers who cancel up to 48 hours before check-in will only face a maximum one-night penalty. They will get a free replacement stay throughout the summer.

"In the Cayman Islands, we strive to not only provide unforgettable and relaxing vacations, but most importantly through this generous program, we offer our guests a seamless solution for when travel disruptions occur," Rosa Harris, director of tourism for the Cayman Islands, said in a written statement.

For a list of participating properties, go to

The all-inclusive Holiday Inn Resort, Montego Bay in Jamaica also has a hurricane guarantee for all bookings throughout the entire hurricane season this year from May 1 to Nov. 30.

If there is a closure of Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport because of a Category One or higher hurricane, guests who have made deposits on bookings can reschedule for a future stay without penalty. They can even get an upgrade if available.

If they are already on the trip and a Category One or higher hurricane develops, they will get a certificate for a free future stay within a year.

"Last year's unusually overactive hurricane season clearly underscores the essential importance of travel insurance and guarantees like ours," Nicola Madden-Greig, group director of marketing and sales at Holiday Inn, said in a written statement. "Our Hurricane Guarantee ensures that travelers choosing Holiday Inn can vacation in Jamaica throughout the summer and well into the fall with confidence."

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Club Med will issue guests a future travel certificate in the event of a hurricane. The certificate must be used within a year of the travel date and applies to participating resorts such as Cancun and Turks and Caicos.

Airlines will typically waive change fees if a hurricane warning is issued.

Other islands are simply trying to attract travelers by offering deals or packages at a discount.

For instance, Petit St. Vincent, the 115-acre privately owned island resort in the southern Caribbean's Grenadine island chain, is offering guests two complimentary nights when guests book a five-night stay during the months of June and July.

The offer includes accommodation for two in one of the island's 16 one-bedroom cottages or six two-bedroom villas, three meals daily, house alcoholic beverages, early morning coffee and afternoon tea, unlimited room service, complimentary boat transfers from/to Union Island and the use of the island's non-motorized watersports.

Regular rates for a one-bedroom cottage start at $1,200 a night based on double occupancy. Guests booking this "Exclusive Summer Offer" will save more than 25 percent.

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