This detailed analysis examines the effect of Hurricane Irma on hotel demand across the Caribbean and southeastern United States.
BROOMFIELD, Colorado—Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms to make landfall in the U.S., forced mandatory evacuations across the state of Florida after causing severe damage to several Caribbean islands.
Initial analysis of Hurricane Irma by STR, parent company of Hotel News Now, focused on the days leading up to the storm’s landfall in Florida. Using daily data available through 16 September, this analysis details year-over-year demand percent change for impacted areas.
In the maps below, green shading represents increases and red shading represents decreases in hotel demand for the days in which the storm was active and in which the aftermath was felt.
The Caribbean islands were the first to see the impact from Hurricane Irma. Demand fell 5% across Puerto Rico during 7-8 September. The Dominican Republic saw a much steeper drop in demand once the storm had passed, with double-digit demand decreases between 8 September and 13 September, which also could have been influenced by the approach of Hurricane Jose. The Cayman Islands saw a demand increase of 21% on 7 September over last year, as many residents and travelers evacuated to the country and outside of the hurricane’s path. Note: For several islands, there is not sufficient daily data to report.
Hurricane Irma traveled along the northern coast of Cuba on 8 September. Evacuations were in place for much of South Florida, including the Miami area and the Florida Keys, with more than 6 million residents vacating their homes, traveling inland and north leading up to the storm’s landfall. Markets on the east coast of Florida experienced double-digit demand declines: Miami/Hialeah (-61%), Fort Lauderdale (-30%), Melbourne/Titusville (-53%), West Palm Beach/Boca Raton (-25%), Daytona Beach (-36%). Markets on the west coast were also affected, such as Fort Myers (-13%) and Tampa/St Petersburg (-7%).
Markets further up the coast in Georgia and South Carolina saw the impact of evacuations, with revenue per available room in Savannah, Georgia, dropping 52% and RevPAR in Charleston, South Carolina, dropping 54%. Inland areas showed significant RevPAR growth over last year, with the Macon/Warner Robins, Georgia, and Augusta, Georgia, markets experiencing RevPAR growth of 120% and 70% over last year, respectively.
Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on 10 September. This was the peak period for demand and RevPAR growth in destination areas for evacuees. Augusta experienced the highest demand and RevPAR growth, with an increase of 140% in demand and 216% in RevPAR. Chattanooga, Tennessee, was another market greatly impacted by the evacuations, with a 192% increase in RevPAR and a 104% increase in demand over last year. Chattanooga’s demand could also have been affected by the Ironman 70.3 World Championship held on 10-11 September.
Despite projections that Hurricane Irma would progress up the east coast of Florida, the storm traveled along the Gulf Coast before being downgraded to a tropical storm. Demand declined along coastal areas, and year-over-year demand increases inland weakened slightly as Irma traveled toward Georgia.
Irma continued to lose strength as the storm passed through Georgia on 12 September. Markets in North and South Carolina still saw significant year-over-year demand declines, with an overall demand decrease of 29% in South Carolina and 14% in North Carolina. This also could have been a reaction to Hurricane Jose, which was circling in the Atlantic with a possibility of hitting the East Coast of the U.S.
Over the six-day period from 8-13 September, Macon/Warner Robins, Georgia, saw the greatest positive RevPAR impact, with a 78% increase over the same period last year.
Markets in South Florida recorded double-digit occupancy declines over the six-day period. RevPAR increased in a few Florida markets, mostly those inland and further up the west coast.
Parts of Florida and the Caribbean are still without power and facing a long road to recovery. As residents and business owners continue to assess the damage and more data becomes available, we will continue to monitor the impact on local markets and the U.S. hotel industry.
This article represents an interpretation of data collected by STR, parent company of HNN. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.