The U.S. Virgin Islands is ready to begin welcoming visitors next month, following Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck the territory last month.
The Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix are now open to commercial flights, the region's Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty announced.
Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism reports JetBlue Airways and American Airlines operations at both airports have resumed, as well as Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines service to and from St. Thomas. Inter-island flights by Air Sunshine, Cape Air and Seaborne Airlines are also operational.
"We are working closely with our airline partners to ensure there are commercial flight services to meet the needs of our residents, businesses, visitors…We will continue to advocate for expanded service as more of our hotel properties reopen and demand begins to grow in the marketplace," Nicholson-Doty said.
The Buccaneer, one of the flagship hotels on St. Croix, will begin accepting reservations for guests arriving on or after Nov. 1. The historic property received minimal damage to its infrastructure and has remained open to accommodate relief personnel. The hotel will be fully operational; key facilities and amenities, including Mermaid Beach, the golf course, tennis courts, pool, the spa and Mermaid Restaurant will be available for guests.
The hurricanes’ impact to St. Croix was not as severe as it was in St. Thomas and St. John. Many restaurants, stores, and businesses are up and running in Christiansted on the eastern side of the island.
On St. Thomas, the downtown Charlotte Amalie shopping area, including businesses on Main Street and at Havensight Mall, has restored power and water and is ready to open. Efforts to clear debris, restore infrastructure, and reopen the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John are still ongoing.
Additionally, many of the territory’s beaches are getting ready to reopen in the coming weeks, pending the completion of water quality testing by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
The Department of Tourism is continuing to assess hotels, attractions, and other visitor-related businesses to determine the extent of damage and anticipated reopening dates.
Despite the progress in the tourism industry, recovery is still ongoing. Governor Kenneth E. Mapp asked Congress for $5.5 billion to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands’ infrastructure, including restoring the power system, rebuilding schools and hospitals, and repairing government facilities.