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.
- 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