The pandemic struck the Caribbean at the height of high season, when snow birds, primarily from the United States, pack the beaches for winter and spring break, and provide the revenue to see resorts and sometimes entire countries through the lull of summer and fall.
Now, as the region begins to reopen to international travelers, it faces not just the challenge of the pandemic, but the financial blow dealt by the absence of cruising and the onset of hurricane season.
Excluding Guyana, the Caribbean economy is expected to contract by 3 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank.
“We’re not fooling ourselves. We fully expect to see a slow return of travel,” said Frank Comito, the chief executive and director general of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, which represents 33 national hotel associations in the region.
As countries reopen, most are mandating face masks indoors and social distancing.
As governments have clarified their policies, airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest, plan to resume service to many Caribbean destinations in July.
United Airlines said on Wednesday that it planned to increase its traffic to the equivalent of about 40 percent of its August 2019 schedule, in response to growing demand for domestic and international flights. In particular, the airline said it would increase service to vacation destinations such as Aspen, Colo., Bozeman, Mon., and Jackson Hole, Wyo. It will also restart service to Tahiti and add flights to Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico.
When the airlines resume service, they’ll be flying into a hurricane season that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted could be above normal. In May, it forecast 13 to 19 named storms, including three to six major hurricanes at Category 3 and above.