Beaches have been destroyed, theme parks have closed, cruise ships have moved out, and flights are nowhere to be seen… Hurricane Irma promised mayhem and it has delivered - and it looks like it will take a serious toll on tourism (not to mention everything else).
The storm, which travelled along Florida’s Gulf Coast, could come at a huge cost for the US$100 billion a year industry, which is gearing up for the busy winter travel season, when millions of Americans go in search of warmer climates.
According to Reuters, some of the state’s biggest attractions are temporarily closed, including amusement park giants Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Legoland and Sea World.
At sea, many major cruise lines based in Miami have had to move their ships out of the area and revise schedules, Reuters reported.
Among those to cancel and amend sailings are Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, who have offered credits and waivers on affected trips. Disney Cruises has also had to cancel at least one sailing and will assess future departures that stop in the Caribbean and Bahamas.
It has been estimated that airlines on four continents cancelled some 12,600 flights through Tuesday due to the storm, according to plane tracker Flight Aware.
That number could rise as a weakened yet still powerful Irma heads north near Atlanta and the world’s busiest hub, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, NBC reported.
Miami International Airport, which apparently suffered serious water damage, is due to reopen on Tuesday, US time.
One of the world’s top tourist destinations, Florida last year welcomed a record 113 million people, while 2017 was proving to be an even bigger year for tourism, state officials said.