Florida hotel rooms and Airbnb rentals fill up after Hurricane Ian

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The destruction from Hurricane Ian is filling hotel rooms and short-term rental units across Florida and as far north as Georgia after thousands of people were unable to return home.

The surge in demand has been particularly strong for long-term accommodation, which typically caters to people planning to stay a week to three months, according to hotel data firm STR.

Many people who have evacuated from the hardest hit areas acknowledge that their homes may be uninhabitable for weeks or even months. Repair, insurance and emergency crews are also filling rooms near affected areas.

“It’s been heartbreaking to listen to people who knew their properties had been destroyed and returned to see the remains,” said Heiko Dobrikow, general manager of the Riverside Hotel in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The hotel was close to full at the height of the storm, including with many people fleeing the storm, Mr Dobrikow said.

President Biden praised the “courage” of Floridians in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian during a visit to Fort Myers Beach on Wednesday. He met with Governor Ron DeSantis and reviewed the storm damage. Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press

According to STR, average hotel room rates were about the same in many major Florida markets for the week ending Oct. 1 compared to the week ending Sept. 24. Fares fell in some cities dependent on leisure travel, such as Orlando, after cancellations due to the hurricane.

In other cases, accommodation rates rose in response to increased demand after the storm flooded homes. This was especially the case for low-cost hotels because many displaced residents have average incomes, according to STR.

In the West Palm Beach market, for example, the average daily rate for budget economy class hotels rose more than 7% to $95.22 a night. Rates at slightly more expensive middle-class hotels rose 16% to $126.16 a night, STR said.

Airbnb Inc.

reservations have increased for the same reason. Between last week (September 25-October 1) and the previous week (September 18-24), approximately 20,000 additional nights were booked in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, an increase of 10%, according to AirDNA, a market research company. .

“The markets with the biggest percentage increase were all in Florida,” said Jamie Lane, AirDNA’s vice president of research. Displaced people “have chosen to stay in the state where there is a large supply of housing available for short-term rentals”, he said.

Major hurricanes don’t always bring more business for the lodging industry. Hotels experience high cancellation rates as storms approach and are sometimes forced to close due to wind and water damage.

But hotels that weather the storms often experience months of increased demand from hurricane-related labor and displaced residents. Hotels in Texas and Florida saw double-digit increases in demand in 2017 in the months following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively. A similar surge was seen in Puerto Rico the same year after Hurricane Maria.

In Florida, many hotels in the hardest hit areas have been destroyed, making it difficult for thousands of adjusters, contractors and others coming for disaster relief to find a home. accommodation nearby. As of Tuesday night, more than 2,000 people were staying in 20 shelters across Florida, according to the Red Cross.

Insurer USAA chose accommodations in the Tampa area to avoid competing with displaced homeowners, utility workers and first responders for rooms closer to high-impact areas, a spokeswoman said. About 40 USAA employees commute daily to Fort Myers, Port Charlotte and other locations, she said.

“Once accommodations start to reopen, our teams will try to get closer to the affected areas,” the spokeswoman said.

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Many hotels that did not feel the brunt of the storm were able to quickly reopen. This is partly because hotels usually have emergency generators and are part of national chains that help them meet staffing and supply needs during natural disasters.

In Tampa, as Ian approached, a new Edition hotel in the mandatory evacuation zone was closed and a press preview event was canceled. Hurricane Ian made landfall south of the city, sparing it from catastrophic damage and allowing the hotel to reopen on Monday.

The increase in hotel demand has been particularly strong in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and other locations east of the hardest-hit areas of Florida’s west coast, according to hospitality industry players. That’s partly because residents of Florida’s west coast wanted to avoid what happened during Hurricane Irma, when thousands of people evacuated north and faced long delays. to come back.

“People learned from it,” said Tamas Vago, general manager of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. He said the hotel had housed hundreds of displaced people and work crews in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Write to Peter Grant at [email protected]

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