Published On: Wed, Sep 13th, 2017

Irma wrecks tourist spots in Caribbean but spares Disney

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Walt Disney World theme parks and Universal Orlando Resort have reopened in Orlando after Hurricane Irma hit Florida, while the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg planned to reopen Wednesday. But many other destinations in the state and the Caribbean affected by Irma and other storms remain off-limits to visitors, in some cases with extensive damage or power outages that will take days if not weeks to resolve.

Irma was at one point the most powerful recorded storm in the open Atlantic and its hit on the tourism industry will be significant, although an exact figure is still unclear.

Tourism accounts for 1.4 million jobs in the Sunshine State, where more than 112 million people visited last year and spent $109 billion. More than 7 million Americans visited the Caribbean last year, trailing only Europe as a top destination, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

(Photo: Twitter)

AIR Worldwide estimates that Irma’s damage to insured property in the U.S. will range between $20 billion and $40 billion, with damage in the Caribbean between $5 billion and $15 billion. Other estimates go higher, and that only accounts for damage covered by private insurance.

Here’s a snapshot of how the tourism industry is faring so far:


Universal Orlando Resort reported “relatively minor damage” to fences, trees, signs and facades as its theme parks reopened Tuesday. Its popular Halloween Horror Nights event will go on as scheduled Friday. Disney‘s water parks won’t open till later this week but most other attractions are running.


Impact in the Caribbean varied. Widespread damage was reported in the British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, St. Martin and St. Barts, including its famed Eden Rock Hotel. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix was said by the Caribbean Tourism Organization to be “getting back to business,” but visitors were encouraged to avoid St. Thomas and St. John. Turks and Caicos had just a couple of open hotels, with others closed anywhere from one week to two months. But the Dominican Republicfared OK, and many hotels in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas – including the popular Atlantis, Paradise Island – reported being back to normal.

Despite the fact that not all Caribbean destinations were devastated, Professor Robin DiPietro at the University of South Carolina‘s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management, predicted in an email that the storm could have “long term impact … as tourists generalize the Caribbean as a bad destination.” DiPietro said. “Fear may take over on tourists’ future planning, and people may book trips to other destinations.”


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