FORT MYERS BEACH
Business is booming at Fort Myers Beach despite the dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, as tourism all around Southwest Florida sets new records. It’s doing so well, in fact, that those working in hospitality are struggling to keep up with demand.
At this point in the year, with school starting up again, the influx of tourists normally slows down. You would think if you threw in a global pandemic, that would happen even more so. While that was somewhat the case in 2020, tourism right now is exceeding expectations. The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce says it’s seen a record summer season, with people from all over the country flocking to Southwest Florida.
Like most of the country, the area is facing a shortage in the workforce, so hotels and restaurants are having a more difficult time than usual trying to accommodate all their guests. While many say it’s stressful figuring out how to serve them all while being understaffed, they say that in the middle of a pandemic, they’re the lucky ones.
“Believe me, no one’s complaining, right?” said Jacki Liszaki with the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. “I mean, everyone is feeling very blessed that we have this kind of business and that people are coming to our businesses and, you know, patronizing us or coming to stay with us and coming to eat at the restaurants, etc. So it is a double-edged sword, but it’s one that no one’s complaining about, certainly.”
While case numbers are similar to what we saw at the start of the pandemic, reports published by the Lee County Tourist Development Council say resort taxes collected in June 2021 saw a 106.6% increase over June 2020. Traffic at Southwest Florida International Airport in June 2021 was up by 253% over 2020. Tourism experts say this is due to several factors, including tourists flocking from states like California and those in the northeast with stricter COVID-19 restrictions.
“Florida is obviously way more open than many of the other states,” Liszaki said. “So I think folks are wanting to spend time with people they love, with friends and family, and they want to have a vacation experience. And Florida has a lot of opportunities for vacation, we have so many amazing things that you can see and do in Florida.”