Palm Beach County hotels lost $4 million in room revenue when Hurricane Matthew sent tourists fleeing earlier this month, according to a report released Friday by STR, a hotel research firm.
As the storm bore down on Florida’s east coast, Palm Beach County emergency managers ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal areas — including the county’s beachfront resorts and hotels.
Although South Florida was spared the brunt of the storm, the area’s travel industry reported some of the largest losses. Hoteliers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties lost more than $24 million in room revenue as a result of Matthew, according to STR’s report.
The storm cost Orlando-area hotels $14.5 million, STR said.
In all, hotels in the five states impacted by Hurricane Matthew lost a total of $50 million in revenue as the storm made its way north along the east coast of the country.
“When looking at the net impact on hotel demand and rates, the story was very similar to what we saw when Hurricane Sandy hit in late 2012,” said Steve Hennis, STR’s Vice President of consulting and analytics. “Unfortunately, the overall loss will be higher once you factor in future lost business as a result of the extensive damage and renovations that many hotels will require prior to reopening.”
Since the worst of Hurricane Matthew’s winds stayed off Palm Beach County’s coast, local hoteliers were back up and running very quickly, said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County.
“The Palm Beaches were incredibly fortunate to experience no significant damage or incidents following Hurricane Matthew, which allowed for our tourism community to return to regular business operations within hours of the storm passing,” Pesquera said. “Although STR reports a possible downturn in hotel occupancy due to the storm, our forecasts project a positive picture in overall business and sold room nights by the end of this year.”
While the industry saw losses in South Florida, the storm sent hotel revenues soaring on Florida’s west coast as travelers and east coast residents tried to escape it’s path.
“There also were many submarkets that saw positive gains as hotels catered to evacuees, stranded visitors, emergency management personnel and the media,” Hennis said.
Hoteliers in the Tampa/St. Petesburg area saw a double-digit rise in revenue per available hotel room — a key benchmark for the tourism industry — during week of Oct. 2 as Matthew moved closer to the state.
Tampa-area hotels saw an 18.4 percent jump in revenue per available room that week, making them among the highest performing in the nation, according to STR.
The benchmark, which gives an average of what visitors pay based on number of rooms available, is used by local hoteliers to evaluate the state of the tourism industry.
Hurricane Matthew is the latest in a string of bad news for Florida’s tourism industry.
In June, a gay nightclub in Orlando, the state’s top travel hub, was the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The following week, an alligator killed a toddler at the Walt Disney World resort.
Then a massive algae bloom stunk up waterways and beaches in Martin County. A Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade County also threatened in the industry. And Hurricane Hermine whipped through the state’s panhandle region the first week of September.
Still, the state’s tourism industry has shown resiliency. Despite the negative publicity, the state is on pace to beat last year’s record of 105 million visitors.