Caribbean tourism faces long road to recovery

The Caribbean is fast approaching tourism season. But this year, some of the islands may not see their vital economic lifeblood.

Several islands are still recovering from the one-two punch delivered by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which razed buildings, knocked out communications and killed dozens of people.

It’s still too early to know the full extent of the damage, said Justin Ram, the director of economics for the Caribbean Development Bank.

Ram said even a 1% drop in visitors could mean the region loses out on about $138 million those tourists would have otherwise spent. In the long term, that could mean a $214 million hit to the region’s GDP.

“That’s just from a 1% drop,” he said.

There is some reason to be optimistic, said Hugh Riley, the secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. About 75% of the region escaped the storms unscathed.

The airport on St. Martin, an island pummeled by Irma, reopened Tuesday. Local restaurants on Anguilla are taking business, too.

Similarly Jose Izquierdo, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, a public company that markets and regulates tourism on the island, says the territory is already rebuilding. San Juan’s airport and cruise ports are operational, and he expects many local hotels to start taking new reservations.

Izquierdo said cruise liners like Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises are scheduling trips out of the harbor.

“It’s a sign that there’s some sense of normality to operations here in Puerto Rico,” he added.

While tourism operations may be reemerging, residents are still suffering.

Riley said some islanders are still without electricity or a viable banking system. Food, water and even shelter can be scarce.

“They are still dealing with day-to-day real life survival and nutrition experiences,” Riley said.

On the island of Dominica, roofs on at least 80% of the island’s buildings were torn off by Maria. Heavy rainwater made the asphalt roads crumble.

John Collin McIntyre, Dominica’s minister for planning, economic development and investment, said he’s experienced that devastation firsthand. He’s spoken to people on the island who have lost homes or family members and are now trying to recover and rebuild. And he said a crucial part of that process will be figuring out how Dominica can find its economic footing.

The damage costs will almost certainly be enormous. A storm that hit the island two years ago, called Erika, caused around $500 million in damage.

That was a tropical storm, not a Category 5 hurricane. And it didn’t swallow the entire island, as Maria did.

McIntyre said Dominica could start welcoming tourists as early as January, three months after tourism season began.

After agriculture, tourism is one of the island’s most important industries. It contributed about $180 million to Dominica’s economy last year, or about 34% of its GDP, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

That’s just a sliver of what’s ultimately a huge economic driver for an entire region. The council reported that 23 Caribbean nations and territories raked in $56 billion from travel and tourism last year, or about 15% of the area’s total GDP.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz urges ‘dignity’ during ‘epic, unseemly election’

— Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is urging his employees to embrace “respect and dignity” in the face of an “epic, unseemly election.”

Schultz has publicly endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. But the letter, obtained by CNNMoney on Sunday, does not suggest that Starbucks employees vote for a particular candidate on election day.

Instead, Schultz wrote that he feels “a bit anxious” about the pending election, and asked his employees to share “kindness, compassion, empathy” and love.

“Let’s each embrace the universal virtues of respect and dignity, refusing to allow the hatred on cable news, the ugliness of our politics, and the lack of political role models for our kids to define us and to dictate how we treat each other,” Schultz wrote.

Schultz, who calls himself a “life-long Democrat,” endorsed Clinton during an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow in September. The executive had previously endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Online records show he has only donated to Democrats, except for a donation to Republican Senator John McCain in the late 1990s.

Schultz also did not discount the possibility of his own presidential run. He told CNN in September that he would “never say never, but this is not the right time.”

Starbucks recently launched a new initiative countering the “divisiveness and cynicism currently fueling our national discourse.”

The company released a series of videos and stories this year called “Upstanders” that focuses on moments of humanity in the country.

And last week, Starbucks rolled out a limited edition green “unity” cup to its stores.

“Like the drawing of so many faces with a single, unbroken line on this season’s green unity cup,” Schultz wrote in his Sunday letter, “we are all connected.”

— CNNMoney’s Poppy Harlow and Heather Long contributed to this story.

Kale in gumbo? Disney pulls recipe after fans stew

— The gumbo recipe cooked up by Disney was supposed to be fit for a princess.

But what the company probably didn’t expect when it posted instructions for a “healthy” version of the dish was backlash from those who know gumbo best — the people of Louisiana.

Disney removed the recipe from social media pages this week after commenters ridiculed the meal for failing to have the signature base known as a roux and for including unusual ingredients like kale and quinoa.

The flap was first reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which wrote about the recipe video for Tiana’s Healthy Gumbo, posted to the Facebook page for the movie “The Princess and the Frog.”

The 2009 film, the Times-Picayune noted, “featured a New Orleanian princess who ruled with her culinary skills.”

Chaos ensued.

“Y’all put kale and quinoa in a ‘gumbo’ without roux or file powder?” one Twitter user wrote. “Ok, Disney. Don’t attach Tiana’s name to that.”

Roux is a flour-and-fat thickening agent used as a base for stews, and filé is a flavoring powder made from the ground leaves of the sassafras tree — as commenters were outraged to have to explain.

“The one thing that instantly unites Louisianans of all races and creeds is the horror of a gumbo recipe with kale and no roux,” wrote another Twitter user.

Others on Twitter used the hashtags #GumboStrong and #GumboGate to announce their contempt for the recipe. Someone even launched a White House petition: “Stop Disney from Ruining Gumbo.”

The video was removed from the Facebook page Tuesday night, according to the Times-Picayune. By Wednesday morning, posts on Twitter and YouTube had also vanished.

Clips from the original video can still be seen in a funny reaction video published on YouTube.

A spokeswoman told CNNMoney on Wednesday that the company would look into it.