For hotels, Lehman Brothers as big a crisis as 9/11


The two big economic crises of the last decade hit in September. A credit meltdown proved more damaging to tourism than did terrorist attacks.

Which was worst for South Florida tourism: the terrorist attacks of 2001 or the financial crisis of 2008?

Last week marked the anniversaries of both: the 9/11 hijackings and the 9/15 collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank. Both slammed the national economies, and sent hotels into a financial tailspin as tourists and business travelers stayed away.

But if you track revenue from hotels taxes after both crises, the numbers show the post-Lehman downturn was harder on hotels than was the post-9/11 downturn. That’s particularly true in Broward, which did not suffer as much as Miami-Dade in 2001 from the crackdown on visas and other new barriers to international travel to the United States.

In Miami-Dade, the downturns lasted roughly the same time — a striking measure of the severity of the Great Recession.

It took Broward hotels 20 months to return to pre-9/11 tax collections, and 42 months to recover post-Lehman. (The calculations use a 12-month average of hotel taxes to compensate for seasonality.)

In Miami-Dade, hotels were back to pre-9/11 output within 33 months. After the 2008 Lehman collapse — which sparked a worldwide credit crisis — recovery took 32 months. A tiny margin, of course, but still one that shows Lehman Brothers should be considered the yardstick by which all future tourism crises are measured in South Florida.

The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine tracks 60 local indicators in an effort to chart South Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession. By comparing current conditions to where they were before the downturn, the ETM attempts to measure how far back the recession set the economy. The answer so far: June 2003. Visit ETM headquarters at for the latest updates.

Read more The Economic Time Machine stories from the Miami Herald

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