special session 3: cruising in the eye of the storm: readiness, resilience & recovery


  • Dr. Andrew Coggins, Lubin School of Business, Pace University
  • Julie-Anne Burrowes, Cruise Tourism Advisor 


Since the early 1980s, there has been a significant increase in most measures of Atlantic hurricane activity. Caribbean destinations and their coastal port facilities are especially vulnerable to increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels given their concentration along low-lying coastal regions.  In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria left trail of unprecedented destruction across the region affecting several popular cruise destinations including Puerto Rico, Dominica, the British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten/Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This marked the second year in a row when category 4 or category 5 hurricanes devastated parts of the Caribbean. What was once 10-year events may become annual occurrences, striking multiple destinations in the same season or even worse, multiple hits on the same destination! 

At a macro level, the resulting damage from these severe storm systems impact tourism infrastructure from port facilities and piers to tours and attractions, disrupt the flow of goods, result in the cancellation of ship calls and the loss of revenue for the destination from suppliers to government.

For the Caribbean, this is critical given the heavy dependency of small island developing states on their ports and cruise tourism sector and in light, of the ever increasing frequency of threats from these systems as seen in the recent case of Hurricane Dorian and the Bahamas. 

session overview

This roundtable provides a forum for dialogue among destinations, cruise lines and practitioners relevant to severe storms education and preparedness, helping to promote unique contributions and align strategies and initiatives of critical stakeholders. Proposed areas to be examined include but are not limited to:

  • Outlook on the impact of climate change on extreme storms – implications for the Caribbean 
  • An assessment of regional damages from storms and their impact on cruise tourism receipts and overall tourism, including the impact on vulnerable communities
  • Cruise line strategies in preparing for when bad weather strikes – how cruise lines manage the process, before, during and after a system – mitigation strategies.
  • Destination perspective – Recovery and resiliency in the destination’s story

Panelists will include cruise executives from two international cruise brands with significant deployment in the region, severe storm expert, destination/port official from one of the impacted territories, major cruise travel agency.

session objectives

The session will have the following objectives: 

  • Identify the challenges faced by Caribbean cruise destinations and in general, the entire sector as a result of these extreme storms.
  • Examine opportunities to integrate existing and emerging information into current and future planning to better manage and build adaptive capacity to hurricane risks and vulnerabilities; highlighting lessons learned and good practices.
  • Identify cooperative and sustainable whole-of-sector approaches to advance local preparedness and resilience policies, frameworks and activities.

session outcomes 

The expected outcomes of this discussion are:

  • A deeper understanding of the threats of severe hurricanes and their potential long term impact on the region’s cruise tourism product
  • Improved collaboration among stakeholders on preparedness and resilience strategies to respond to severe hurricanes including pre and post messaging strategy. 
  • Identification of new research, information, and capabilities that will support sector preparedness, adaptation, and mitigation planning.
  • Concrete recommendations that can be implemented by sector stakeholders within the cruise value chain to strengthen the region’s capacity for resiliency

session outputs 

The anticipated outputs from the session will include the following: A summary report of the session that captures the key discussion points and identified preparedness and resilience information including any new innovations, and initiatives which may inform future strategies and policies. 

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