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This Time, It's Not Us

November 02, 1995|JENNIFER OLDHAM

The natural disasters that pummeled prime vacation getaways this fall have halted or slowed tourism in many regions that rely on seasonal visitors for their livelihood. A look at several recent disasters' impacts on tourism:


* The disaster: Hurricane Opal wreaks havoc on the Panhandle the first week of October.

* Total estimated damage: $2 billion in four states

* Estimated income from tourism: The storm demolishes an area that provides 17% of the $32 billion that tourism brings to the state each year.

* Impact on key attractions: Although Opal slams into the Panhandle after its prime tourist season--March through September--it forces the cancellation of several lucrative events.

The Caribbean

* The disasters: Within 10 days of each other in early October, Hurricane Luis and Hurricane Marilyn blast the Caribbean with winds up to 146 m.p.h.

* Total estimated damage: Damage is in the hundreds of millions of dollars on each of the hardest-hit islands, including St. Martin, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Anguilla.

* Estimated income from tourism: $11.7 billion in 1994.

* Impact on key attractions: The Caribbean's busiest cruise ship port at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas is demolished. The cruising industry at Charlotte Amalie brought in $881.3 million in 1994.

North Carolina and Virginia

* The disaster: Hurricane Felix closes popular resorts at Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks, forcing thousands to flee inland.

* Total estimated damage: The storm merely grazes the coastline, causing only about $93,000 in damages.

* Estimated income from tourism: Officials estimate that Carteret County, N.C., which includes a portion of the Outer Banks, brings in more than $210 million a year from tourism. Virginia Beach, Va., logged $500 million in total spending by 2 million visitors last year.

* Impact on key attractions: The perception among tourists that the storm demolished coastal resorts cost millions in tourism revenues.


* The disasters: Hurricane Roxanne slams into the Yucatan Peninsula in October, followed by a devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Manzanillo.

* Estimated income from tourism: Quintana Roo, home to Cancun and Cozumel, leads Mexico's tourism industry, logging 3 million tourists in 1994 who spent about $1.5 billion.

* Impact on key attractions: Tourism officials say 90% of those who had vacation plans for November or December retain their reservations.

Sources: Virginia Beach Department of Convention and Visitor Development; Commerce Department, Travel and Tourism Administration; Florida Division of Tourism; Mexican Government Tourism Office, Times and wire reports

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