If hoteliers have learned anything over the past two decades, it’s that nothing is guaranteed and no amount of planning can spare you from extreme situations.
Certainly, we’ve had enough examples to draw on over the past 20 years. Given calamities such as 9-11, SARS, two deepseated recessions and the fires in Fort McMurray, Alta. last year — not to mention the global fragility we’ve seen in recent years — is it any wonder that when you talk to analysts and ask them to forecast how business is expected to fare, they always preface their answer with “Barring any unforeseen circumstances…”
Who can blame them? Last month, the Caribbean islands and the U.S. faced a nightmare of epic proportions when, within the span of a few days, Hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma pummeled certain parts of the U.S. and the islands. It marked the first time in the history of record keeping that two Category-4 or higher hurricanes struck the U.S. mainland in the same year.
Luckily, the effect of Hurricane Irma on the island of Antigua was minimal and most of the hotels in that destination are open for business. The smaller sister island of Barbuda, on the other hand, was greatly affected and the government is currently implementing a disaster-recovery plan. In the U.S., Miami was expected to be severely hit but, luckily, the damage was less than originally predicted, with many of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s hotels remaining open to provide shelter and accommodations to visitors and residents. According to a release from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, hotels along the area’s coastline reported no damage and were in the process of reopening by the middle September. As Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the association said, “The high-code standards of our many new buildings showed that good construction pays off.”
As we were going to press, it was too early to predict the damage, but according to Dr. Joel N. Meyer, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, damage from Hurricane Irma is estimated to be about $100 billion while “we estimated that Hurricane Harvey is to be the costliest weather disaster in U.S. history at $190 billion or one full percentage point of the GDP. Together, AccuWeather predicts these two disasters amount to 1.5 of a percentage point of the GDP, which will about equal, and therefore counter, the natural growth of the economy for the period of mid-August through the end of the fourth quarter,” Myers added.
Many hotels became a focal point of the community as shelter and refuge from the elements — a testament to the human spirit that somehow perseverance and resilience manage to shine through to carry us forward.