Lee County shares pandemic's effect on tourism

Posted at 8:09 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 23:05:24-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — It’s no surprise that tourism is down in Southwest Florida. Thursday Lee County revealed how much its declined. They say the number of visitors decreased by as much 60 percent earlier in the pandemic.

Andrea Carriere owns Silver Sands on Fort Myers beach. She says there’s really only two days where she sees a stream of guests.

“You know, and it’s basically been weekends. Nothing during the week. I mean, you could drop a bomb off in the place and not hurt anybody,” she said.

The small resort closed in March as a precautionary measure, and lost $50,000 from cancellations. Carriere says they’re still losing revenue considering they’ve slashed prices just to book rooms.

“Because now your occupancy is at say $100, and in March it’s $250,” she said.

Silver Sands is just one of hundreds of hotels in Southwest Florida taking a hit from the pandemic. Tamara Pigott, Executive Director of The Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau shared the declining tourism numbers with county commissioners Thursday morning.

“I think the last time we had a meeting, I had the exact opposite number on the screen,” she said. “I think we were up 20 percent.”

But this year, revenue from the bed tax was down by 20 percent in June. The number of overnight stays in hotels was cut in half from April to June. However, Pigott remains optimistic.

“The pandemic continues, and people are cautious, so we’re certainly not at our normal numbers, but are starting to see those number come up a bit,” she said.

Carriere says they’re already sold out for Labor Day weekend at Silver Sands. Rooms are still going for discounted prices, but she says that’s better than it’s been the last few months.