>> Deadly hurricane Irma ripping through the Caribbean as it moves toward normally sunny Florida. A vacationers paradise during the winter months, the Caribbean now fearing a grim tourist season as it looks to recover from the massive devastation left in Irma's wake across prime holiday destinations like St. Martin and Barbuda.
Reuters' correspondent Dana Beth Sullivan in Mexico City.>> Officials are still trying to assess how bad the damage has been. Some islands like Barbuda were almost entirely devastated. Others held up much better like Antigua which is now welcoming evacuees from other islands. On Saint Martin one of the problems now is that the airport has been closed and about 3,000 international visitors were stranded.
>> The regions' busy travel season, now severely in jeopardy. Last year foreign visitors spent more than $30 billion, and before Irma that number was expected to jump more than 5% this year. One U.S. tour operator telling Reuters bookings have already dropped for his popular island vacations, and it may be well into 2018 before the local tourism industry can rebuild costing billions in lost business.
>> There's a sense that bringing back tourism won't be as simple as cleaning out the water and sand from the hotels. It's going to involve a massive effort to rebuild entire infrastructures throughout these islands, airports, roads, communications.>> Cruise lines, tour operators, and airlines scrambling to accommodate tourists or postpone plans as Caribbean bound cruises reroute itineraries to avoid devastated areas.
And it's not over yet, forecasters predicting hurricane Jose, a category four storm, could barrel through many of the same islands Irma whipped through. Hurricane season is set to run for several more weeks.