How will Hurricane Irma affect the tourism industry?

How will Hurricane Irma affect the tourism industry?

The path of destruction of Hurricane Irma up Florida’s Gulf Coast and the islands of the Caribbean is expected to disrupt the region’s thriving tourism sectors – just months ahead of the busy winter travel season – when Northern Hemisphere holidaymakers typically seek out the more tropical climates.

Just over a month ago, Florida announced a record-setting number of visitors with more than 60 million tourists vacationing in the Sunshine State since January and nearly 113 million in 2016, spending $109 billion overall.

Although the extent of the damage is yet to be determined and has been deemed incalculable in the short-term, it is clear that travel brands will suffer from quite dramatic fallout this year – especially smaller tour operators and local, family-run businesses dependent on tourist traffic for business.

Furthermore, many of the impacted islands rely on tourism more than any other sector as a source of income – and dependent on how quickly infrastructure can rebuild, how many cruise lines choose to cancel or change itineraries, and how soon travellers chose to return to the area – the fourth quarter of 2017 will be a slow one.

The lowdown:

  • State officials estimated that 5.6 million residents and tourists have been evacuated north since the storms hit.
  • Some of Florida’s biggest attractions have announced temporary closures, including Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Legoland and Sea World.
  • More than 3000 flights in to and out of Florida have been cancelled. Airlines are expecting to return to normal operations this week.
  • Approximately 20 cruise lines have Miami as a port of call, and many have made statements saying they have revised their itineraries or cancelled them altogether. Multiple companies even sent ships full of employees and evacuees out to sea.
  • Several popular port destinations including Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands have suffered extensive damage that will most likely keep cruise traffic away for the foreseeable future as cruise ports, hotels and airports recover.

 

 

main image: Satellite image of Hurricane Irma, image by Antti Lipponen, Flickr creative commons

The gentrification battles of Boyle Heights

The gentrification battles of Boyle Heights

Located just a few miles east of downtown and just across the river from the arts district, Boyle Heights is a district of Los Angeles where 90 per cent of the population of 100,000 is Hispanic.

Churros, image by Andres Reyes, Flickr creative commons

Churros, image by Andres Reyes, Flickr creative commons

In recent years, the district has gained a reputation for being home to the best Mexican restaurants and street food in town. A visit to El Mercadito, the central market on 1st Street, feels like Mexico proper. The breadth of items for purchase is overwhelming with colourful stalls selling everything from cowboy boots and hats to first communion dresses and me vale madre potion – an herbal concoction believed to calm the nerves. And that’s not to mention the food: churros, mole, tamales, palanquetas (nut bars) and bunuelos (fritters covered in sugar and syrup) are just a few of the essential “must trys”. The dueling mariachi bands entertaining clients in the upstairs restaurants are the icing on the pastel.

The charm of El Mercadito – and Boyle Heights in general – is that it isn’t touristy, unlike Olvera Street in the downtown district, long the preferred destination for travellers seeking a taste of Mexican life in LA.

Street murals, image by Laurie Avocado Flickr creative commons

Street murals, image by Laurie Avocado Flickr creative commons

However, Boyle Heights is changing. With the influx of coffee shops and art galleries in recent years, local activists are resolutely fighting against new developments in fear of what they might foreshadow: a wave of gentrification and the threat of displacement. The locals have termed the process “art-washing”.

In May of last year a non-profit art gallery called PSSST was preparing to open in the neighbourhood. Instead, on what should’ve been opening day, the gallery faced a crowd of protesters gathered in front of the building, beating drums, waving posters and chanting slogans such as “We don’t need galleries, we need higher salaries!”

Local street food vendors, image by Ray S, Flickr creative commons

Local street food vendors, image by Ray S, Flickr creative commons

This would not be the last protest in the district against the ‘hipster hangouts’ popping up. Recently, PSSST announced its shuttering. In a statement on its website they reasoned: “Our young non-profit struggled to survive against constant attacks… our staff and artists were routinely trolled online and in person.”

The anti-gentrifiers have been criticised for using confrontational tactics to push their case forward – personally singling out people for public condemnation and physically chasing unwelcome visitors out of the neighbourhood.

The Eastside has long been a centre of Los Angeles’ protest movements, whether it was residents marching against the Vietnam War in the 1970s to more recently demonstrating for immigrant rights.

 

main image: Streets of Boyle Heights, image by jondoeforty1, Flickr creative commons