This one is a tough one to write. It is Sunday afternoon and Hurricane Irma is starting her slam into the Gulf Coast of Florida after wreaking havoc as she tore across the Caribbean. Destinations all too familiar to us have sustained damage ranging from devastating to severe.
St. Barts, Barbuda, St. Martin, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Bahamas, and too soon to tell about Miami, Naples, Tampa, Ft. Myers, and Sarasota. For an island by island look at the destruction, this is a good link.
The US is still continuing to recover from Hurricane Harvey, but now we have Irma and potentially Jose laying in wait.
Obviously my first thoughts are for the safety of the people affected. And then my thoughts turn to the damage to the property that will undoubtedly be in the billions. But the damage will go much further than that.
All of these islands and towns are prime destinations for winter escapes (along with Mexico which is fighting their own PR battle) from most of the United States and quite honestly, many of them will not be ready to accept visitors in time for the winter travel season. While some may be ready, damage to the airports (SXM) and ports will play a significant role.
What can we, as an industry do for these destinations? Since most of these locations are tourism-dependent, the best thing we can do is monitor the rebuilding efforts and then, when appropriate, send them business.
But more immediately, what can we, as an industry do for ourselves with an expected decline in Caribbean travel this winter? Before inquiries come in, we need to identify alternate destinations. For those looking to escape winter, Mexico, Hawaii, southern California, and the southern Caribbean are all reasonable options. For those not opposed to non-warmer climes, Bermuda, New Orleans, Europe, and other popular U.S destinations will fit the bill. While the Orlando parks will likely be open in short order, do not forget Anaheim and the original Disney Land where it all began.
But we need to keep our eyes peeled to the skies. Remember, we have nearly 2 more months of hurricane season. Here’s hoping that Mother Nature is done!