Tourism drop could mean fewer jobs for people affected by hurricanes

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Clean-up and re-building efforts continue following last month’s three major hurricanes. Now, experts say some of the people affected will be dealing with another issue: A drop in tourism.

The peak holiday season in the Caribbean is right around the corner, running from December to May. But it isn't just about the people who want to take a vacation -- those who live in the affected regions say it's an important topic because visitors will be able to help in the recovery process, since tourism is their livelihood.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization says about 30 million tourists visited the area last year, spending about $35 billion dollars. Hotels, restaurants, shops and water activities all play a role, and any loss in business will have a ripple effect.

The World Travel and Tourism Council says travel and tourism accounts for more than 50% of the Gross Domestic Product for some of the affected regions. Without those tourism dollars, some economies are going to take another hit.

The U.S. Travel Association says Puerto Rico, for example, could see a 50% drop in tourism, which could translate to 36,000 fewer jobs.

Locally, Caldwell Travel has been helping Hoosiers with travel plans since 1988. The travel agency's owner, Mary Caldwell, says most of their clients -- who'd been hoping to travel to an affected area -- did not go in recent weeks. Moving forward, she says they're trying to give their clients the best advice they can.

"We as travel agents, we are trying to educate our public and our clients, so when someone wants so go someplace then we have to be able to say, you know what, maybe let’s not do St. Thomas right now or let’s not do Turks -- lets do Jamaica because Jamaica is fine," Caldwell explained.

Caldwell says travelers could also find good deals now for areas that are hoping to attract tourists again.

On Sunday, officials in Key West launched a $1 million advertising campaign to let visitors they’re open again. Officials in Turks and Caicos put out messages similar messages.

Some cruise ports are opening back up, while others will be closed until next month.

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