August 21, 2014

Hurricane Damage Report: Tourism

Change of Plans

This summer's storms will have a lasting effect.

Ken Ibold | 11/1/2004

The parade of hurricanes that swept the state -- starting with Charley -- put a crimp in the plans of tourists who had planned one last hurrah over the summer and Florida residents who might otherwise have made Labor Day weekend trips.

But while the storms were certainly unwelcome, there were some silver linings: They came at the beginning of what is typically a slow time for tourism anyway, and many hotels found solace in the influx of relief workers and displaced residents paying for nights that normally would have been vacancies.

Still, the legacy of 2004's hurricane season will remain with Florida tourism businesses for some time. The 394-room Hotel Royal Plaza near Walt Disney World will be closed until early next year. About 158 employees have been laid off. It closed Sept. 3 and did not reopen after Frances.

Posh Palm Beach hotels such as The Breakers and the Ritz-Carlton closed for weeks after Frances and Jeanne in order to repair water damage.

In Charlotte County, a third of the 3,300 hotel rooms reportedly were damaged.

The state's theme parks were forced to close briefly. Disney, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens faced closures of a day or two, but damage was almost exclusively limited to landscaping.

Disney's Vero Beach Resort closed after Frances. It was hit even harder by Jeanne. The company had initially canceled reservations through Sept. 30.

Disney also closed its Fort Wilderness campground for more than 10 days, starting with the approach of Frances and ending with Jeanne. The company moved the operations of its two cruise ships, the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic, from hurricane-damaged Port Canaveral to Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale.

The hurricanes reportedly cost Disney between $30 million and $40 million.

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