After knocking down parts of the vital tourism industry in the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma is spinning toward Florida, another vacation haven.
Tourism accounts for 1.4 million jobs in the Sunshine State, where more than 112 million people visited last year and spent $109 billion. Resorts and hotels there could suffer instant destruction from Irma’s winds or lingering damage if vacationers stay away.
“We will still have our beaches after Irma, but some people who were planning to come to Florida will change those plans,” said Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida. “They may postpone, or change destinations.”
In the Caribbean, at least 21 people were killed when Irma slammed into the islands as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever. Heavy damage was reported on St. Martin, St. Barts and other famous beach destinations.
Roads and airports will need to be repaired or even rebuilt,