THE FLORIDA KEYS ARE OPEN ONCE AGAIN

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Oct 06, 2017

The Florida Keys are once again open to tourists following the mandatory evacuation and Hurricane Irma. Florida Keys officials had previously scheduled to reopen the region to visitors on October 20th to coincide with the start of Key West’s Fantasy Fest, but moved the date up to October 1st as water and power has been restored, road repairs have been completed, Key West International Airport has resumed business, and lodging is available. 

Another factor in the decision to move up the dates is the tourism-driven economy that employs about 50% of the Keys’ workforce and accounts for 60 percent of the money spent. “By welcoming visitors to the destination, it will provide the jobs and the hope that our residents are looking for so they can begin to rebuild their lives,” said Stacey Mitchell, director of marketing for the Florida Keys tourism council. “It’s been a road of recovery and continues to be so, but we’ve made enough progress where the infrastructure is ready to accept visitors. By the visitors coming down, they’re helping in the recovery and being part of that process.”

No doubt hurricane season has hurt Florida’s tourism this year. Before Irma, the state’s tourism industry was on pace to top last year’s 113 million visitors. Because of Irma, Disney World closed its park doors for the first time since 2004, although Disney resort hotels remained open while residents in all parts of Florida evacuated or took shelter during the storm. Zoo Miami is still closed but will reopen on October 14th, and several hotels in the parts of the Keys hit hardest, such as Marathon’s Hawks Cay will remain closed until further notice.

Key West tourism officials have been posting a series of photos and videos showing life in the Keys slowly returning to normal. Cleanup efforts have cleared most debris, and while the normally busy streets seem empty, visitors are returning to the beloved city as hotels and attractions reopen to the public and urge tourists not to cancel their plans to visit the region. “We know that the sooner the Keys are able to welcome tourists back into their communities, the faster the Keys as a whole is going to be able to recover,” Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, told the Orlando Sentinel. 

Rebuilding the Keys will truly be a community effort, with businesses doing everything they can to attract the visitors needed to rebuild the region back to its pre-Irma glory, including a marketing campaign by the  Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Bureau to get the word out that the Keys are open for business and “Bent, But Not Broken.” It will be some time before everything is operating and running as normal, but it’s safe to say things are looking up, they will rebuild, and everyone will once again be able to enjoy a cheeseburger (and margarita) in paradise. 


For more info on the Key West Recovery, please visit http://www.keysrecovery.org/

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