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NO VACANCY: Local hotel owners say insurance battles keeping their doors closed

A recent report shows the hotel industry brings in $34 billion a year.
Posted at 10:15 AM, Nov 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-14 10:15:15-05

As Southwest Florida’s tourism industry looks to rebound after the destruction from Hurricane Ian, a group of local hotel owners say they need help from their insurance companies to rebuild.

“People forget after about a year. And that’s what’s happening,” said Bharat Patel, Chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

“Some hotels are waiting on the insurance payout, so they say they’re just gonna shut their doors and wait for the payout. But that could take a year or two.”

This past summer, a report from Lee County showed the majority of hotel rooms on the barrier islands were yet to open.
According to a study from Oxford Economics, commissioned by the AAHOA, Florida hotels bring in nearly $34 billion in economic impact to the state.

The report also found bed taxes collected in Florida generate more than $9 billion in revenue.

“My message to southwest Florida is that area is in danger of losing its brand as a great place to live, work and play,” Patel said. “That’s gonna change really quickly if we can’t get this insurance mess fixed. Who wants to do business in an area where your business can be wiped out and there’s no recovery.”

There have been some positive developments in the tourism industry.

Pink Shell on Fort Myers Beach hopes to fully reopen near Thanksgiving.

And the long-awaited opening of the Margaritaville Resort on FMB will open in December.

“I wish there was a magic bullet, or legislative fix,” Patel said. “But really what it really comes down to is the insurance companies honoring their agreement. When we signed the agreement, we paid them so when there is a catastrophic event, they pay you. That’s not what’s happening.”