Caribtours has taken islands most affected by Hurricane Irma off sale until the end of the year.

The Caribbean specialist tour operator is rebooking or refunding holidays for around 70 clients due to travel between now and December 31, 2017, to the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St Maarten, St Barts, Turks and Caicos, and Barbuda.

Managing director Paul Cleary said he was relieved the vast majority of the Caribbean has been left untouched and “remains in good shape” following the devastating category 5 hurricane.

It is business as usual for the operator in Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Tobago, St Kitts, Nevis and Jamaica, he said, while the operator’s programme to the Dominican Republic, Bahamas and Cuba has also been largely unaffected by the hurricane.

But for the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St Martin, St Bart, Turks and Caicos, and Barbuda, which have been ravaged by the storm, he said: “Because communication has been understandably sporadic and we have very little meaningful information, we have done is taken destinations off sale for the foreseeable future. This is not negative; it is practical.

“We are acting with clarity and rebooking our forward bookings to alternative destinations. Travel agents appreciate certainty and decisiveness and just want to look after their clients. If clients don’t want to go to other parts of the Caribbean, we are offering free cancellations and refunds.”

Cleary believes it could be between six months and a year before affected islands can start taking tourists again. “They need to rebuild. All the people who work at the hotels have livelihoods that will be in tatters. Our sympathy goes to all those affected,” he added.

The operator relocated around 40 holidaymakers who were in areas due to be affected by the hurricane last week.

It has also pledged to donate £50 per booking to the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund to help support those destinations most in need of help.