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Tourist officials: business boomed in Florida for 2017, despite Hurricane Irma

Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-20 18:29:36-05

Business is booming in the Sunshine State, even though much of Florida was slammed by Hurricane Irma - especially Collier County, where the hurricane made landfall on September 9.

"We were having a rip-roaring summer," said Cathy Christopher, director of sales and marketing for the Inn On Fifth in downtown Naples. "We were doing so well, until you know, the unspeakable happened."

Christopher said her hotel lost a lot of group business into October.

"There was definitely the perception that we had been very severely damaged," she said. "But since then we have rebounded, and November and December will be record-breaking."

"Through the first nine months of the year, we definitely had record numbers," said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island and Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Then, Hurricane Irma caused the inevitable setback.

"About 20 of our 80 hotels were open for business," Wert said. "The rest were closed, mostly because they didn't have power."

"The hotels that were open were full of first responders, so we had pretty good occupancy," he added.

Now that Naples is back in business, Wert said that a special concert by 90s band Sugar Ray on December 9 at Naples Square will give people an opportunity to donate to charities, such as the United Way, which are helping Everglades City and other areas still recovering from Irma.

"To help those areas of our community that really still have some unmet needs, that money wold certainly help," Wert said.

Cathy Christopher said she believes businesses in downtown Naples will benefit from concert-goers who are looking for a little nightlife after rocking with Sugar Ray.

"The concert at Naples Square is going to be fantastic, and absolutely it will spill over," said Christopher. "It's a great opportunity for us to showcase that we're just as good as ever."