Holidays & Travel

Could global warming and hurricanes like Beryl change the way we travel in the Caribbean?

With unpredictable weather becoming more of a reality, travellers need to make careful considerations when booking a holiday.

Hurricane Beryl has been unseasonably intense
Damage caused by Hurricane Beryl Hurricane Beryl has been unseasonably intense (Alamy Stock Photo)

Every year, hurricanes blast through the Caribbean islands. Residents have found mechanisms to protect themselves against the forces of nature, but every time a storm rips through the region there’s cause for alarm – even more so in recent days.

Having passed through popular tourist destinations such as Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, Hurricane Beryl is heading towards the Yucatan in Mexico.

Although most hotels and resorts remain open for business and flights are resuming, there’s still been a great deal of devastation.

What’s most concerning is the intensity of the storm at this time of the year – scientists say the category five hurricane, which blasted across the Caribbean at speeds of up to 160mph, was the earliest of such strength to hit in 100 years.

The path of Hurricane Beryl
The path of Hurricane Beryl (Alamy Stock Photo)

Typically, a sea surface temperature of at least 27C is needed for hurricanes to develop, meaning strong storms tend to happen later in the hurricane season (which runs from June to November). But exceptionally high temperatures in the Atlantic caused Beryl to roll in now. Some scientists have linked the development to global warming, which could lead to more intense hurricanes in the future.

So, given the increasing unpredictability of weather, can travellers realistically avoid hurricanes, and are there precautions which can be taken to minimise the impact on holidays?

“If hurricanes derail your travel plans, the first point of call should be your airline or travel provider, as they may provide aid. The same goes if your accommodation is impacted by the disaster,” says Christina Tunnah, general manager of Americas and global marketing & brand for insurers World Nomads.

Clean-up work on Martinique following Hurricane Beryl
Clean-up work on Martinique following Hurricane Beryl (Alamy Stock Photo)

“Travel insurance may offer cover for a range of events including trip cancellation, missed connection, and trip delay – but it depends on the type of travel insurance policy purchased and whether you’ve started your journey yet,” Tunnah adds. “We’d recommend checking your insurance policy wording carefully to understand full terms and conditions.”

Whether booking through an agent or directly with a hotel or resort, it’s also important to check the terms and conditions for cancellations.

Danielle Barker, managing director for the Little Harbour Estates portfolio of super-villas in Anguilla, believes smaller boutique tour operators and accommodation providers are often best placed to have the most detailed and up-to-date knowledge.

“While no two hurricanes are the same, those that have experienced them before will always be able to give a more reliable picture of what could happen than those relying on desk research,” Barker points out.

Residents have learned to deal with hurricanes
Residents have learned to deal with hurricanes (Alamy Stock Photo)

“If you’re concerned that you might be travelling during hurricane season, check with your accommodation provider or tour operator – they should have established procedures in place to outline what happens in the event of a hurricane while you’re away. ⁠⁠Hotels, resorts, villas and the like should have built-in features including designated safe shelters, storm shutters, and stores of food and water.”

Little Harbour’s three villas, for example, all have safe spaces in the basement and shutters across all windows and doors.

But she stresses islanders are well prepared for hurricanes: “Rest assured that islanders are prepared for these eventualities, both to mitigate impact as they are happening, and to reinstate service once the weather event has passed.”