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Study: Sanibel/Captiva hotels eye recovery by end of 2025

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 21:59:26-05

SANIBEL, Fla. — The Sanibel Chamber of Commerce recently discussed the ongoing recovery efforts and challenges facing the island in a State of the Island address. They highlighted the gradual rebound of local businesses following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian.

In the study involved 91 businesses on Sanibel and Captiva islands, including a significant proportion of hospitality establishments such as hotels, resorts, and Airbnbs. Nearly all respondents expected to reopen by 2025.

Bridgit Budd, owner of The Pecking Order Fried Chicken, shared her observations on the changing tourist patterns.

“We get a lot of daytrippers who couldn't find accommodation locally, staying in places like Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Naples,” said Budd.

Similarly, tourists are still visiting the islands despite the lack of available accommodations. Colton Ries, a visitor from Minnesota, described his experience, “We're staying in Cape Coral. It's gnarly, seeing all the videos then actually coming down here and seeing it firsthand. It's crazy, sad.”

The impact of Hurricane Ian was not limited to physical damage. The local hospitality sector has witnessed a significant decline in employment, with 65% of hotels reporting staffing levels at less than half of pre-Ian figures. Despite these challenges, the vibe of Sanibel’s beaches and dining experiences continue to attract visitors.

“We went to a couple of different beaches, went to a whole bunch of different restaurants,” added Ries.

In a positive turn, Budd mentioned seeing more sales than before Hurricane Ian, attributing it to the supportive customer base wanting to see the island thrive once again.