Like many people, you probably watched the news with utter horror as Hurricane Irma cut a path of destruction through the Caribbean in the summer of 2017. Communities were devastated, and tragically, lives were lost. The aftermath of such an event can be something that you need to be pragmatic about when it might affect you. Of course, you will feel sympathy for the hardship that has been endured by those who were living in the path of the hurricane, and yet you might wonder what the consequences of the storm will be if you happen to be planning a holiday in the region. It’s a logical thing to consider. Will there even be much to do after such an event?
Will your presence there be inappropriate – trying to have a good time while a community tries to rebuild itself? If you were planning (or if you have already booked) a vacation to Cuba in the near future, there are a few things you need to know.
The Efficiency of the Clean Up
If you’ve booked a trip, or are considering one, you should still make the journey. The impact of Hurricane Irma cannot be understated, and yet Cuba has recovered admirably well. Damage from the storm is evident mainly on the northern coast, and in bigger towns and cities (particularly Havana, which wasn’t directly hit), the efficiency of the clean up is remarkable. The Cuban government had measures in place to clean up after the unthinkable happened, and these measures were implemented with a minimum of fuss. Obviously, since tourism is so vital to the Cuban economy, preliminary measures were concentrated on the areas that are generally frequented by visitors.
Drying Out the City
Journalists visiting the island after the hurricane had passed reported scenes of residents dragging their furniture onto the street to dry out, which is a perfectly reasonable reaction to such a disaster. Havana residents who lived by the ocean told stories about how it wasn’t the wind and rain that was the primary source of damage, but it was more that the ocean surged over beaches and seawalls and flooded their homes. This was quickly seen to, with clean up crews diligently pumping water away so that walkways and streets that resembled swimming pools were rapidly emptied and allowed to dry.
In and Out
Getting in and out of Cuba was obviously problematic while Hurricane Irma was in full force, but operations largely returned to normal once the storm passed. Flights resumed at their normal schedules, and cruise liners began to enter Havana’s harbor as soon as it was safe to do so. It wasn’t deemed necessary to remove Havana from the itinerary as the city was still open for business, almost immediately after the hurricane. As it was pointed out by one of the cruise lines, their passengers sleep onboard the ship, so it’s not as though they should have to miss out on Havana, nor do they need to worry about any damage to their accommodation.
It’s concerning to those Cubans who work in businesses that cater to visitors. Not only did they have to suffer through the actual hurricane, but now they have to worry that the aftermath will be too much of a deterrent for foreigners who were planning a trip to Cuba. This is especially true thanks to some misinformed and exaggerated newspaper headlines and reports. The owner of the beloved Havana restaurant Atelier (where Michelle Obama dined on a state visit to Havana in 2016) gave an interview in which she talked about the community spirit that came into play once the hurricane had passed. Friends and neighbors, all banding together to help each other out.
She proudly displayed the blisters on her hands and spoke about how she and her neighbors had been continuously cleaning for days, getting each other’s businesses ready for action. Power and water were quickly restored, and now the only thing lacking is the customers.
If in Doubt…
If you have booked a Cuban vacation that is primarily centered around the smaller towns and outlying regions of the island, it can be prudent to contact your travel provider to ensure that your hosts are ready to receive you, but this is almost certain to be the case. There have been some issues with support (including the equipment necessary for such large-scale cleaning) reaching isolated parts of Cuba when the roads have been damaged, and yet this is underway, slowly but surely.
The damage resulting from Hurricane Irma cannot be underplayed, but the resilience of the island nation reflects the personalities of those who call her home. Irma might have given Cuba a beating, but it didn’t break her. It’s business as usual in Cuba, and since the locals won’t let a hurricane get in their wonderful way of life, it shouldn’t affect your travel plans either.
Do you have any questions? Just leave a comment below.