Hurricane Irma’s Toll on the Caribbean
Kat Van Hulle
Nearly two months since Hurricane Irma hit, the Caribbean islands are still grappling with how to begin rebuilding their communities. The hurricanes not only stirred up high winds and major destruction, but a rush of residents leaving the islands as well. With homes, businesses and entire cities demolished by the tropical storm, many residents fled fearing that their livelihood was in danger if they stayed.
The islands are facing challenges on multiple fronts, but the most concerning being that their economy is known to be primarily based in tourist markets. The storms ripped through a region dependent on traveler demand who are now driven away by the wake of destruction left in Irma’s path. The once bustling network of caribbean hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and local businesses have come screeching to an economic halt. Tourists are absent from the tropical destinations of the islands as debris and floodwater continue to litter many areas.
Also threatening the region’s ability to rebuild could be the long run effect of all the residents who left the islands both in preparation for the storm and after it hit. Having lost their steady source of income from the tourist population, and a supply of many resident workers, it’s feared that more locals will leave the islands in search of other opportunities which would only crush the economy moreso.
In the caribbean alone, travel and tourism account for a higher portion of the GDP than in any other part of the world. Last year alone, nearly 30 million tourists visited, spending upwards of $35 billion. If the islands cannot recover after Irma, millions of jobs will be at stake and the global economy could impacted too. Time will only tell if the hard hit islands of the Atlantic will be able to regain the same flow of tourism that they once did pre-Irma.
Bosman, Julie. “The Storms Moved On. The Caribbean Islands Fear the Tourists Might, Too.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/us/tourism-hurricane-economy-caribbean-islands.html.
Carl Joseph, Megan Specia And Kirk Semple. “Caribbean Islands Battered by One Hurricane Are Bracing for the Next.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/world/americas/caribbean-islands-hurricane-irma-st-martin-barbuda-anguilla.html.
“How Hurricane Irma will change the Caribbean.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 14 Sept. 2017, www.economist.com/news/americas/21729007-region-must-adapt-climate-change-not-simply-rebuild-how-hurricane-irma-will-change?zid=295&ah=0bca374e65f2354d553956ea65f756e0.