Dominica’s hurricane recovery efforts boosted by voluntourism program
Electricity has returned, houses have been rebuilt and major attractions like Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool have been officially declared open. Now, the next step in Dominica’s recovery efforts post-Hurricane Maria involves travelers.
“Dominica isn’t open, it’s opening. We’re not rebuilt, we are rebuilding,” said CEO of the Discover Dominica Authority, Colin Piper. “If meaningful travel is something that resonates with you, consider coming to Dominica.” Aside from financial and emotional support from other Caribbean nations and Dominicans living abroad, the country has benefited from its “voluntourism” packages.
The program invites travellers to assist in the cleanup of sites such as the Indian River, the Waitukubuli National Trail and various dive sites. Packages are being offered through the Tamarind Tree Hotel, Fort Young Hotel, Secret Bay, Cobra Tours, Cool Breeze Tours and Cabrits Dive. “Happy to say we have gotten a lot of interest from travelers about these,” Piper said. "It gives you hope to understand that it’s not only left to you, but other people are willing to come and be a part. They are willing to take their time and (assist) physically.”
Heading into the seventh month since the category 5 hurricane took the lives and businesses of native Dominicans, the island is on the right track. One of the biggest measuring sticks came on 28 December 2017 when the country welcomed its first cruise ship - the Sea Cloud II. Though a smaller vessel (capacity around 200) it was the first signal to the world of Dominica’s mission. Before that day, Piper said the cruise lines had essentially “written off” Dominica for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. “As a result of welcoming MV Mein Schiff 3 (a month after Sea Cloud II) they (cruise lines) reconsidered and I’m happy to say that most, if not all have scheduled us for 2018-19 season.” Dominica has since received 16 more cruise calls, with Carnival Cruises expected to make five visits this year.
When it comes to the island itself, 19 of the 23 island sites and attractions are ready for travelers, according to a Dominica tourism board press release. 41% of the total 962 rooms available before Hurricane Maria can now be booked. Places like Fort Young Hotel, Secret Bay, Calibishie Cove and Citrus Creek are expected to reopen later this year. “It’s a great place to take a slow walk in nature and kind of transform and rejuvenate yourself,” Piper said. Popular diving sites which attracted enthusiasts from around the world before the hurricane are once again operational with tours available on the north, south and west coasts of the island.
Getting to Dominica isn’t an issue, there are regular flights connecting to regional and international markets. The Douglas Charles and Canefield airports have been open since October 2017. Night landing at Douglas Charles is available until 8pm for public flights and until 10pm by special arrangement. “Come if meaningful travel appeals to you. Come with the understanding the state of the island,” Piper said. “We are rebuilding and if you feel like you need to wait until next year, do it. But come. In doing so we will both be the richer for it because the experience in Dominica will change you.”