Buoyant Spirit
Global Traveler|November 2020
The Caribbean rises with resiliency in the wake of hurricanes and the pandemic.
Patricia Vanikiotis

The Atlantic hurricane season of 2017 inflicted unprecedented devastation across wide swaths of the Caribbean. Responsible for 3,364 deaths and resulting in a damage total of nearly $295 billion across the region, the storms included three Category 5 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) responsible for the majority of the destruction. Particularly hard hit were Puerto Rico, the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands, and the northern Leeward Islands including Dominica and Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.

The following storm season saw fewer and overall less violent systems, but 2019 brought Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, historically the strongest storm and most costly natural disaster to sweep over The Bahamas. For the Caribbean region, thankfully, 2020 has proven (as of press time) relatively tame in terms of storm-related property damage and loss of life. This year brought a different kind of disruption, that of an economic tsunami in the form of COVID-19, which impacted every country and territory across the entire area.

But just like the beauty of these islands’ shores, the spirit of their people can not long be suppressed, and their love for their homes and cultures time and again has brought rebirth and rejuvenation after every trial. Areas hit hardest over the past three years stepped up to the plate and provide examples of that resiliency.

“Unfortunate events present opportunities for growth.” With that statement, the British Virgin Islands’ Tourist Board launched its Seeds of Love initiative in the spring of 2018, just months after hurricanes Irma and Maria scoured the territory. The goals, to replant indigenous trees and vegetation destroyed by the storms and to prevent erosion and protect the ecosystem, acknowledge the relationship between tourism and the environment, and the need to protect the environment as the territory develops ecotourism. Citizens and schoolchildren joined in to plant and maintain thousands of fruit trees, coconut palms, and other flora alongside the islands’ guests looking for voluntourism opportunities.

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