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BOKEELIA | Charter captains hope for strong tourism season one year after Ian

Concerns about people getting out on the water after the lost season last year
charter boat Ian
Posted at 3:21 PM, Oct 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-24 19:48:11-04

BOKEELIA, Fla. — As charter boat captains gear up for tourism season, some say there are a few concerns. The worry comes down to how many people are not only coming back, but how many will actually go to the water.

Captain Todd with Funshine Island Services always looks forward to a trip on the water with people to share our area's beauty.

"Now at this point, we just need tourism to come back because last year there was no season," he said.

During that time, he had to take on side jobs. For a while, he looked for FEMA driving barges. Captain Todd helped take debris off the islands, then worked for North Captiva Barging.

Whenever he could, Captain Todd would use his boat as a water taxi. Both jobs helped him keep his business afloat.

"Every charter captain, sight seeing, stuff like me is just doing whatever you got to do," he explained.

JW Safford of Gulf Coast Aqua Adventures has been using his boat as a water taxi, too.

"Business still hasn’t come back for the charter industry yet," he said.

Captain Todd says the concern also comes back to the hotel rooms available. According to the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, there are only about 1,100 out of 4,600 hotel rooms open on Lee County's barrier islands.

"People might have to spend more time driving to the beaches than what they did before, but it’s still here," Todd said. "It's beautiful."

To encourage people to come back and head out on the water, he's taking advantage of advertisement and trying to think outside the box.

"Basically the small ones [charters] are going to have to specialize and do something that sets them off to the side," he explained.

For Captain Todd, it's sightseeing between the wildlife and Mother Nature.

"That's what everybody asks for — go see the dolphins," he said.

Back in October 2022, Captain Todd said "nature's healing and we'll be next with it."

As Fox 4 caught up with him a year later, he says "she'll heal first and she has."

It's a healing process coming next for businesses.

"I still got a big smile on my face through all of this," said Captain Todd. "This is all still here. We're just waiting for all you guys to come back at this point."