FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The Outrigger Beach Resort, a staple of Fort Myers Beach since the 1980s, will soon take on a different name and face. The hotel, damaged in Hurricane Ian, was sold for millions and is now in the process of being torn down.
Many hotels have reopened since Hurricane Ian, but Fort Myers Beach is seeing a lull in that progress. Still with thousands of hotel rooms out of commission, Lee County's tourism is taking hit because of it.
Johnathan Edward says he spends every weekend on Fort Myers beach.
"We definitely need the tourism tax, and tourism period. We need to get the flow of the people back," he said.
That’s exactly what developers like London Bay, based in Naples, are working to do. Pulling tourists to the beach is on the other side of this $38.2 million dollar purchase.
"It’s a double-edged sword for sure, you want to keep that quaint Fort Myers Beach that all my kids grew up on, but at the same time, times change and we’ve gotta move a little bit forward," Edward said.
Tourism pumps $4 billion into our economy in Lee County. It employs one of every five people, including Lori Skelton, who works at a hotel and can speak to the need for rooms to get booked.
A Tourism Development Council report shows on Fort Myers Beach 1,748 of the 2,356 total hotel rooms are still closed — that's 74%.
“I just can’t wait for it to all get done," Skelton said.
No timeline for the event has been given yet. Fox 4 reached out to London Bay for clarity, but has not heard back at this time.