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What does Hurricane Irma mean for travelers?

What does Hurricane Irma mean for travelers?

A damaged hotel stands after the passage of Hurricane Irma, close to the airport, in Phillipsburg. St. Maarten.   (Photo: Carlos Giusti, AP)

Hurricane Irma roared across hotspots throughout Florida and the Caribbean. But her impact on major tourist destinations was uneven.

Some islands such as St. Martin/St. Maarten--the half French, half Dutch destination—and the U.S. Virgin Islands were devastated. Meanwhile, Jamaica and Barbados were largely spared.

The Caribbean and Florida are some of the most popular vacation spots for U.S. citizens this time of year. What should tourists know before making their vacation plans this fall? We take a look at what tourists should expect from hotels, airlines, airports and cruises impacted by the hurricane.

Destinations

Many hotels and attractions in the Caribbean and the Florida were suffering from the damage incurred by Irma.  But the impact varied from island to island and town to town.

Orlando’s theme parks are open for business. That includes Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios. The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg has also re-opened.

Leroy Bridges, media and interactive director for Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, says despite power outages and non-functioning traffic signals, life was starting to get back to normal. "People are already on the beach," he says.

At one point, more than 100 Marriott hotels were closed across Florida. A few hotels stayed open as shelters. But they have now re-opened for regular business. Still, many hotel chains such as Wyndham are relaxing cancellation policies.

The Florida Keys were the hardest hit part of the state. Residents were being allowed back in the Upper Keys as of Tuesday but many areas were still without power, water or cell phone service. U.S. 1, the major thoroughfare that runs through the Keys, was still being cleared of debris. Gas was in short supply. But many hotels in Key West had minimal damage, and many bars and restaurants were serving meals and drinks.

As for the Caribbean, Antigua was impacted minimally by Irma with electricity quickly being restored to the capital, St. John’s, and most parts of the island. Anguilla and the Dominican Republic were also faring well, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).  

The Bahamas was largely spared but there was uneven damage. Parts of the southern islands saw devastation ranging from cosmetic to severe. An assessment of Ragged Island continues, but other islands, such as Acklins Island, Crooked Island, Inaugua, and Mayaguana were mostly cleared as of Wednesday, according to the CTO.

Barbuda, meanwhile, was more severely impacted as the hurricane passed directly over the tiny island of 1,800 residents, resulting in one fatality. Prime Minister Gaston Browne says 90% of homes were destroyed as well as many hotels.

The British Virgin Islands also sustained heavy damage. Cell phone towers were down as of the beginning of this week. There were also

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September hotel roundup: The latest openings, renovations, brand updates

The Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza is has

The Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza is has re-opened after a $68 million renovation.   (Photo: Hilton Hotels and Resorts)

The U.S hotel industry reported positive year-over-year results in three key areas from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2.

Occupancy rates were up 2.2% to 65.9%, compared with the week of Aug. 28 through Sept. 3 last year. The average daily rate reached $121.76, an increase of 2.1% over the same time last year. And revenue per available room was up 4.3% to $80.22. That’s all based on the latest data from research firm STR.

Hoteliers have responded to the positive trajectory with a slate of new openings, renovations and other updates. Here are some notable ones.

Marriott’s Moxy prepares to open in Times Square

Marriott International, the largest hotel company in the world, is designing hotels for a new generation of younger travelers.  

One of its newest brands, Moxy, is set to open in Times Square on Sept. 21. Moxy Times Square is the first of five Moxy hotels planned for New York.

Moxy launched in Milan in September 2014. There are 12 now in Europe and Asia. In the USA, there are two others: one in New Orleans and one in Tempe, Ariz. Another 90 Moxy deals have been approved worldwide in cities such as Paris, London, Miami and Los Angeles.

The new Moxy Times Square, developed by real estate company Lightstone, has 612 guestrooms and more than 22,000 square feet of event space. It is located in a building on West 36th Street and Seventh Avenue that opened in 1906 and operated as the Mills Hotel in the 1950s.

Guestrooms have flexible furniture including a chair, stool and table that can be hung up on a peg wall when not in use. The beds have cubbies underneath for storage. Bathrooms have walk-in rain showers. Some rooms have twin bunk beds.

The company has partnered with the TAO Group, known for nightlife and dining venues throughout the city, to create three eating and drinking establishments: Egghead, an egg-centric sandwich shop; LEGASEA, a seafood brasserie; and the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge.

Rather than have a traditional lobby with a front desk, guests can check in at a kiosk or on their mobile phones.

Prices for rooms will range from $150 to $250 a night.

“It will provide an experience which is both very alive and current and share-able and fun and a good value in the city,” says Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson. “We’ve got great momentum with the brand.”

Sorenson says that while the brand attracts younger travelers — those in their 20s and early 30s known as Millennials — it also has wider appeal.

“There is a risk when we throw Millennials into the same bucket and say they are monolithic and they all think the same way,” he says. “Our experience in this area is that not just Millennials but many customers want a little bit more variety in their hotel experience. They want to have value

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Jamaica promotes small hotels with new website

The Jamaica Tourist Board has launched a website to promote small hotels, inns, villas and guest houses.

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Four Seasons to operate its first hotel in Greece

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts will reflag the two hotels that make up Greece's Astir Palace Resort after the property completes a $120 million renovation next year.

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Georgia ambassador to be UNWTO's secretary general

Zurab Pololikashvili...

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