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Superstorm Sandy could hurt Caribbean

Caribbean islands that rely heavily on tourism and revenue from the winter travel season fear that the recent spate of devastation across 19 America states caused by Hurricane Sandy will affect the annual flow of vacationers who usually seek sunshine and warm climes.

Tourist boards across the region are monitoring cancellations of reservations at hotels and airlines.

With airport closures at Newark and JFK International and others along the eastern seaboard flights from the northeast even business travels were greatly impeded.

Now that the two main gateways have opened, destinations will find that previous potential visitors might have cancelled or postponed travel.

According to a newspaper report from one island -- “The Northeast is Jamaica’s largest source market. Forty per cent of the business that is generated by the country’s tourism stakeholders comes from areas such as Boston, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia.”

“It is a situation that we are watching very closely, already some of our members are reporting that guests have not been able to travel to Jamaica,” Evelyn Smith, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), told a local newspaper.

“It’s our most important source market, in comparison to the Midwest, South and West Coast, and in recent years the Philadelphia gateway has been doing very well. And the hurricane is cutting right through that area.”

In addition to tourists’ visits to the islands, immigrants are accustomed to returning home to spend the holidays.

With devastation caused to homes by the storm and the imposition on many who were unable to travel to work, potential visits from nationals may be affected.

The fact the hurricane also took 71 lives in the Caribbean bears some consideration.

Reportedly, 54 people were killed in Haiti. Twenty are allegedly missing and tens of thousands have been left homeless.

“It was a relatively small disaster, but it will have a big impact,” Amelie Gauthier, of Oxfam’s office in Port-au-Prince said.

“These rains will have an impact for months to come. All it takes is the loss of one or two lemon trees and some families here will no longer be able to afford to send their children to school.”

“We have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of the aid that we will need to deliver in the days, weeks and months to come,” Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said. “It won’t be easy because there are many roads and bridges that have been cut off.”

In Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, 11 people died (a four-month-old boy among them) in Cuba.

The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica reported two deaths and one in Puerto Rico.

More hurricanes are imminent this month, therefore hardship might increase and vacation travel may have to wait.

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