‘We’ll be back’: Enormous hurdles — and resolve — ahead for those in Virgin Islands’ hard-hit tourism industry

William de Leon sorted through the remnants of an office on Estate Lindholm, a hotel in the Cruz Bay section of St. John. –Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

GREAT CRUZ BAY, Virgin Islands — The turquoise waters still glimmer in the bright sun, and the beaches remain breezy and alluring. But instead of daiquiri-sipping tourists on lounge chairs, the white sands beside the Westin Resorts are thick with detritus that makes it look more like a war zone.

Beached sailboats lean precariously beside debris from nearby, roofless villas, as if torpedoes had hit them. Nearly all the once-stately palm trees look decapitated, bereft of fronds. And just about all the surrounding vegetation has vanished, as if the formerly lush hills above had been torched.

When Hurricane Irma screamed through this luxe retreat on St. John, where more than half the villas were destroyed by flooding and fierce winds, Troy Neil and his pregnant wife watched from one of those villas as their catamarans and the other boats they charter were battered and their livelihood wrecked.


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