For the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, this hurricane season has been one of the most damaging in recent history. The two hurricanes that swept through the region, Maria and Irma, were both category 5 hurricanes (with wind speeds exceeding 157 mph). Many people think that this trend of so many category 4 and 5 hurricanes touching land will continue to increase in the coming years. 2017 and 2007 were the only years on record with two category 5 hurricanes making landfall, and in the last 30 years, category 4 and 5 hurricanes have increased by 30 percent.
The destruction caused on these islands will cost in the hundreds of billions to repair, and the path to recovery is expected to be a decade long. Dozens of islands in the region were affected by these storms, but the hardest hit was Puerto Rico. The US territory saw wind speeds over 189 mph, and specific areas were drenched with up to 30 inches of rain. It will take an estimated 4-6 months before all of the islands 3.6 million residents have power again and an estimated 11,000 people are still living in shelters. While already suffering from an economic crisis, this a particularly painful time for Puerto Rico to have 80% of its agriculture destroyed and to have a substantial percentage of its population without homes.
This hurricane season will have long-lasting consequences for tourism in the region. Infrastructure has never been highly developed in some of these travel hotspots, but now much of it has been destroyed completely. Not only will the lack of infrastructure and goods & services dissuade people from traveling to the area, but also the underlying threat of being caught in one of these massive storms will keep people away. Puerto Rico is expected to see a 50% decrease in tourism, which generates close to 4 million visitors annually, not to mention that an estimated 200,000 people are expected to move off of the island due to the storms.
In Costa Rica, we seem to be lucky enough to land just outside of the boundary of where these deadly storms hit. Because of this, Costa Rica will most likely see an increase in tourism and investment as vacationers decide to steer clear of the hurricane zones.
Costa Rica's tourist industry is in a stage of continuous growth with yearly visitors reaching above 3 million. With an increase in the frequency of category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Caribbean, those numbers will only grow faster.
Derrick Poelsma, Remax Real Estate Agent