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Hurricane Ian's Destruction Will Include Possible $7B Blow To Florida Hospitality Industry

Hurricane Ian striking Florida on Wednesday evening.

When Hurricane Ian struck Florida on Wednesday, with it came strong storm surges, widespread flooding and wind gusts as high as 190 mph, wreaking uncounted billions in property destruction and so far an uncertain death toll.

Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday, but the danger to lives and property in the state isn't over yet, and millions of homes and businesses are without electricity.

One casualty of the storm's havoc will be the state's crucial tourism industry, which will not only see a drop in visitors in the immediate future, but also undetermined but probably significant damage to hotels.

Damage to Florida’s tourism infrastructure, mostly hotels, could reach $5B, Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research, told Bloomberg. Lost revenue from tourists not coming to the state could top $2B.

Images of the damage to hotels and resorts in the state, caused by flooding and wind, are emerging on social media and news outlets.

Florida is among the most-visited places in the U.S. by both foreign and domestic tourists. Domestic visitor numbers surged to a record 117 million in 2021, while total visitors increased to 122 million. Orlando alone saw 59.3 million visitors last year, representing a jump since pandemic restrictions began to be lifted. 

As one of nine states with no income tax, Florida's government relies heavily on income from the tourism industry.

Previously, Watson estimated that the overall property damage to the state could reach $60B to $70B.

That estimate, if correct, would put Ian in the top 10 most damaging U.S. hurricanes in history. Hurricane Katrina is still both the deadliest and most expensive hurricane in U.S. history, causing an estimated $96B in damages in 2005.

The most damage ever done to Florida by a hurricane was by Irma, which caused an estimated $50B in damage when it hit in 2017.

As the third-most-populous U.S. state, with 21.7 million residents, Florida real estate is increasingly at risk from periodic hurricanes. Ahead of Ian, CoreLogic reported that more than 1 million single-family and multifamily homes were at risk of serious damage from the storm.