After a very quiet first half to the hurricane season in the Caribbean, Hurricane Fiona arrived to deliver a full-throated barrage on Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos within the last 48 hours.
According to Governor Ernesto Morales of Puerto Rico, the island is enduring a “historic level” of flooding and “the damages we see are catastrophic.” However, reports from the San Juan affiliate of international destination-management firm Hosts Global noted on Wednesday that San Juan was spared the heaviest rain and wind, and that the city's hotels did not close.
Hours after passing directly over Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona then made landfall over the eastern half of Dominican Republic, where Punta Cana—a popular destination for corporate-incentive programs, with more than 100,000 hotel rooms—lies. In fact, Marriott International opened its very first all-inclusive resort, named Sanctuary Cap Cana, in the destination just three days before the storm arrived.
Fiona was the first hurricane to make a direct hit on the Dominican Republic since Jeanne caused severe damage in the east of the country in 2004—when Punta Cana was far less developed than it is today. While the Dominican Republic’s tourism chamber said that the Punta Cana airport is now reopened, power and water supply are limited, and there is no word yet as to when the region’s hotels and resorts will be able to host business groups again.
In Turks and Caicos, a British Overseas Territory 700 miles southeast of Miami, the storm arrived Tuesday morning with more than 20 inches of rain along with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.
Meg Pisani, managing director of supplier relations for Maritz Global Events, told MeetingsNet late Tuesday that the firm's work on incentive programs—including the ones for 2020 and 2021 qualifiers that are set to happen sooner than what's typical—includes plenty of contingency planning.
"Our on-site support specialists and air- and supplier-relations teams go into research mode as these situations unfold. We reach out to our key supplier partners—airlines, destinations (DMC and DMO reps) and hotels—to have them advise on possible solutions/relocation of guests who are on site or to make changes to upcoming events, depending on where we are in the planning process. In our conversations and planning session would be with key stakeholders within the client’s organization, we share the research findings from our partners and our Emergency Preparedness team"
"We definitely do our due diligence; we need to find a solution that best helps our clients and partners, but we do not want to jump to conclusions and create additional work" that turns out to be unnecessary for programs that are far enough out for a propeorty and destination to recover sufficiently.
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Unfortunately, Fiona might require contingency plans for events in yet another island destination. The storm is expected to strengthen after moving past Turks and Caicos and back over the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, Bermuda is preparing to deal with what could arrive by Friday morning: two feet of rain plus sustained winds even stronger than what struck Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos.