Can the Cape’s Tourism Industry Survive Tornadoes?
By: Kristin Kelleher, Programs Director
Vacationers found their time in Cape Cod cut short when a series of tornadoes hit the region at the end of July. Three separate tornado cells touched down in the region, impacting “seven Cape communities, leaving over 30,000 businesses and private residences without power during the height of its summer season.” Thankfully, no injuries were reported, but the weather was so extreme that the storms infamously ripped the roof off a hotel.
CAPE COD TWISTER: A tornado tore across Cape Cod on Tuesday, knocking down trees and ripping the roof from a hotel – part of a wave of storms along the East Coast. https://t.co/qgpWKdXI3C pic.twitter.com/P7VsbM1WEb
— ABC News (@ABC) July 24, 2019
What does this mean for the future of coastal tourism?
The Cape’s July tornadoes are an unsettling reminder of the increasingly extreme weather events that will impact Massachusetts’s coastlines. They are also an example of how financially damaging summer storms can be for small businesses that have to shut down for even a day during peak tourism seasons. News sources reported that, ”July is the peak of summer tourism for the region, where it’s make or break time for the Cape’s hospitality industry.” After speaking with local industry stakeholders, they determined that businesses in the hotel and restaurant sectors “are struggling.”
With 192 miles of coastline in Massachusetts, disruption to coastal industries is felt by a large swath of the state. Small businesses will continue to face ongoing struggles with physical damage to buildings, interruptions in supply chains, and reduced foot traffic because of climate change. Frequent extreme weather events, heat waves, droughts, and floods will increasingly be to blame. These interruptions can cause a chain reaction impacting other businesses across industries.
How did Governor Baker Respond?
In response to these events, Governor Baker is offering one million dollars in emergency loans for businesses, as well as supplemental funding to support a new marketing campaign for the region.
”We are proud to build on the immediate effort to clear roads and properties of debris and enable power restoration with this important economic aid needed for small businesses to regain their footing.” – Governor Charlie Baker
— Stephen Oddo (@StephenOddo) July 23, 2019
The administration’s quick support and community engagement in the region after July’s extreme weather is admirable. They have partnered with key business groups, including the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Community Capital, and the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), to conduct outreach. Loans from $5,000 to $50,000 are available immediately to “Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by tornadoes and severe weather of July 23, 2019.”
Furthermore, perceptions by consumers that specific regions may remain closed after a storm negatively impact foot traffic and businesses’ bottom lines. To account for this, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism granted, “$100,000 to the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce to boost public awareness that the Cape is ready to welcome tourists.”
While an impactful marketing strategy can be valuable in getting customers in the door of a seafood restaurant, and can prevent tourists from canceling their summer vacations altogether this year, marketing is not enough – It is a short-term solution. Businesses and communities need to take actionable steps to prepare for weather events caused by climate change. Thinking about the long-term picture, not simply about the revenues for the summer season, can ensure that the Commonwealth remains a premier vacation destination.
How Can Businesses Prepare?
FEMA reports that roughly, “40-60 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster.” We can begin to remedy this problem by encouraging businesses to engage in disaster preparedness.
We can also prepare as a society. We can take action in mitigating our carbon emissions to ensure that weather events, like the July 23rd Cape Cod tornadoes, will be less intense and damaging to our main street businesses and communities.
— Adam Liberatore (@bostonTVguy) July 23, 2019
At CABA, we have engaged with over 900 businesses in Massachusetts during our Businesses Acting on Rising Seas Campaign. Our research confirms that businesses that prepare in advance have a significantly better chance of reopening after a storm. Our tailored resilience guides serve as an educational tool to help businesses understand climate change impacts, and give low-cost steps to create continuity plans. This can include having contact information for emergency services accessible to staff, as well as having a flexible supply chain, extra stock readily available, and purchasing goods that will make storefronts more resilient.
If prepared, local businesses can even stay open during a storm, serving as a beacon of resilience for the entire community.
Breaking the Cycle: Education and Action
We are inviting the same disaster and recovery cycle again and again if we do not take greater action to adapt and reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
With reports from the Center for Climate Integrity estimating that Massachusetts will have to spend more than $18 billion to protect its coastline against rising tides and storm surges, mitigation and adaptation must be seen as puzzle pieces that need to be implemented together.
A number of solutions have been posed at the Massachusetts State House to fund resilience measures. There are two bills that have teeth this session, one from Gov. Charlie Baker (S.10), the other by House Speaker Robert DeLeo (Greenworks).
However, with legislative leaders focusing heavily on resilience measures, Massachusetts is at risk of delaying needed action to mitigate climate impacts.
“GreenWorks does not come close to meaningfully reducing carbon emissions. Massachusetts needs to significantly reduce its carbon emissions from transportation (which account for 43% of state emissions), heating (25%), and industry (10%) by 2050 to meet its legally binding climate change goals.” – Tim Cronin, Author of the Massachusetts Policy Roundup.
Tough day today!
A tornado swept through Cape Cod 🇺🇸. Uprooting trees. Cutting power. Lifting off the roof of our neighbor hotel. Thank God, noone was injured. But experiencing this force of nature, told me and my family why we need to fight climate change! pic.twitter.com/hqgz3IKpkn
— Erik Solheim (@ErikSolheim) July 24, 2019
In order to stabilize the climate, protect vulnerable communities, and prevent the worst consequences of the climate crisis, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 80 percent by 2050.
We need carbon pricing to meet these necessary emissions reductions. Carbon pricing is a policy solution that aims to reduce pollution and move the economy towards cleaner solutions, while raising revenue that can go towards funding projects that protect our economy. By putting a per-ton price on carbon emissions, we can also generate vital funds for green investment, while stimulating job growth and clean innovation. This will reduce pollution and increase renewable energy solutions leading to thousands of new clean energy jobs. Furthermore, a price on pollution will generate additional revenue that can be earmarked for community adaptation projects, helping communities on the Cape prepare for increased flooding and storms, speeding up recovery times.
The tornadoes on Cape Cod can serve as a wake-up call, and a catalyst to take action. If you are a business leader or community stakeholder that wants to take action, you can sign our Business Carbon Pricing Sign On Letter, or keep up to date with our action items by signing up for our newsletter here.