Hoteliers assess scene after Hurricane Ian’s rampage in Southwest Florida: Journey Weekly
There stay loads of unknowns relating to Hurricane Ian’s impression on Southwest Florida’s hospitality and tourism infrastructure. However the sheer scale of destruction wrought by the storm means that the area’s inns and resorts face a protracted and difficult highway to restoration.
Days after Ian made landfall as a Class 4 on Sept. 28, on-the-ground updates from a number of the state’s hardest-hit areas — together with Fort Myers Seashore, Sanibel, Captiva and Naples — remained restricted, as roads and bridges had been both closed or had been washed away through the storm. The Sanibel Causeway, which connects Sanibel and Captiva to mainland Florida, was among the many key arteries lower off by a collapse.
In a press release posted on-line on Oct. 2, Doug Babcock, CEO of hospitality administration and advertising firm Sanibel Captiva Seashore Resorts, reported that though he and his spouse safely rode out the storm on Sanibel Island, they later needed to be airlifted out through helicopter.
Likewise, as of Oct. 3, Go to Florida, the state’s tourism advertising company, remained centered on much more rapid restoration efforts.
“Go to Florida is working carefully with authorities in impacted areas to help with getting standing messages out,” stated Dana Younger, Go to Florida CEO, in an emailed assertion. “We’re actively connecting displaced Floridians with sources for locating appropriate short- and long-term lodging.”
Based on Peter Ricci, director of Florida Atlantic College’s hospitality and tourism administration program and a longtime Florida resident, the extent of impression on the native infrastructure alone will considerably hamper the hospitality trade’s skill to construct again shortly.
“Relating to the infrastructure and particularly the bridges, these will take a very long time to restore,” stated Ricci. “You then add to that the provision chain points that we have been having because of Covid, that is going to make issues much more tough. I believe guests are going to keep away from Fort Myers, Naples and Sanibel for a very long time simply because they will understand it as not prepared, and so they’ll be right.”
From a tourism perspective, the non permanent lack of what Ricci described as “world-class, closely visited locations” can have an enormous financial toll.
“Sanibel and Captiva have over 150,000 guests a yr between the 2 of them, and Naples has effectively over 150,000 guests a yr, as effectively,” stated Ricci. “So, this can be a devastating hit at a time when Florida remains to be driving that wave popping out of Covid and being open.”
Additionally contributing to Hurricane Ian’s in poor health timing is the truth that it struck simply forward of the area’s peak journey interval.
“The southwest coast, from Sarasota all the way down to Naples, is a area that’s nonetheless very seasonal, which implies it loses extra going into the winter months,” Ricci stated.
Alan Fyall, chair of tourism advertising on the College of Central Florida’s Rosen School of Hospitality Administration, echoed Ricci’s sentiments, characterizing Captiva, Sanibel and Naples as locations “synonymous with Florida tourism.”
“These specific markets are comparatively small, however very, very high-profile,” stated Fyall. “It isn’t a lot the quantity in these areas however the excessive worth. These are actually premium markets in Florida, and they also’re kind of over-represented relating to tourism to some extent.”
Lodge employees left with out jobs or housing
Though many inns and resorts nonetheless struggled to make detailed assessments of their particular person harm almost every week after the storm, it was clear that some properties had been extra closely impacted than others.
Based on Babcock of Sanibel Captiva Seashore Resorts, the corporate’s Beachview Cottages and Castaways Cottages resorts on Sanibel Island had vital harm, with “many cottages utterly gone.” However two of the corporate’s different properties, the ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa and West Wind Island Resort, remained in “remarkably in good condition.”
“With water, energy and entry to the islands, we might open in just a few days,” stated Babcock. “Sadly, we all know the infrastructure rebuilding course of will take months.”
The Lani Kai Island Resort in Fort Myers Seashore, which dates to the late Seventies, was additionally among the many properties nonetheless standing after the hurricane. A video uploaded to Fb on Oct. 1 by Melissa Schneider, the Lani Kai’s advertising director, confirmed the resort intact however surrounded by sand and particles.
Whereas Schneider stated that the Lani Kai staff felt very “lucky that our crew and their households who took refuge in our lodge through the storm all survived and made it,” most of the property’s employees “misplaced the whole lot within the course of.”
Certainly, for a lot of within the hospitality trade, the hurricane has left widespread unemployment and uncertainty in its wake.
However with different elements of Florida nonetheless fighting the continuing labor disaster, Florida Atlantic College’s Ricci stated he hopes that the state’s lodge sector can mobilize and create options for displaced staff in want of each properties and jobs.
“I’d suppose that this may very well be changed into a chance for different elements of Florida to help these staff, as a result of there are locations that also want employees,” Ricci stated. “And I believe stepping as much as assist relocate staff to the jap coast, Central Florida and Orlando might actually assist these individuals within the brief time period.”
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