FL - After A Devastating Hurricane, The Fort Myers Tourism Industry Is Bouncing Back Stronger Than Ever
While Lee County has been renowned for its gorgeous beaches for decades, some of the region’s coastal areas are still home to some lingering debris from the hurricane.
Founded in 1885, the gulfside city of Fort Myers has been a popular tourist destination for decades, with visitors arriving in droves to take advantage of the balmy weather and fascinating attractions like the Edison & Ford Winter Estates and Burroughs Home and Gardens—but at the tail end of September 2022, a devastating blow was dealt to the region in the form of Hurricane Ian. Classified as a Category 5 storm, this colossal cyclone caused more than 100 billion dollars of damage across Florida—and the local hospitality industry wasn’t spared from the destruction.
“As one might expect, the storm initially decimated our available rooms. The rooms that were available were almost all reserved for emergency workers and people displaced by the storm,” says Tamara Pigott, Executive Director of the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau. Though recovery was an arduous process, Lee County’s hospitality scene has undergone a resounding comeback, with roughly 70% of rooms back up and running as of April 2023. In the heart of downtown Fort Myers, the polished Luminary Hotel bounced back in just about two weeks—but that’s far from the only option for visitors to look forward to in the near future.
By the end of 2023, Fort Myers Beach is set to receive its own Margaritaville Beach Resort, serving as the first major hotel to enter the city in roughly two decades. Right nearby, Captiva Island’s South Seas Resort is undergoing an extensive renovation, while downtown Fort Myers is looking forward to welcoming both a Banyan Hotel and a Hampton Inn in the near future—and beyond the hospitality scene, Pigott also notes that some of the area’s most beloved traditions have made a welcome return as well.
The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins have both used Fort Myers as a spring training base since the early ‘90s, yet the Covid-19 pandemic brought this practice to a screeching halt. Fortunately, 2023 saw the revival of the practice in full, with regular—and well-attended—games taking place from February 25th to March 28th. Just a few days after spring training began, the city celebrated Lee County’s resilience with the re-lighting of the Sanibel Lighthouse, while the return of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge was a more recent victory, officially reopening for seasoned birders, nature lovers, and outdoor adventure aficionados on April 5th.
While Lee County has been renowned for its gorgeous beaches for decades, some of the region’s coastal areas are still home to some lingering debris from the hurricane. To keep safety at the forefront, Pigott recommends that all visitors wear shoes while strolling on the sand, while the tourism bureau’s Beach Conditions page serves as a handy guide for the surrounding area. In addition to adhering to safe beachgoing practices, Pigott also urges visitors to explore some of the inland attractions across Lee County, with destinations ranging from Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve to Sun Splash Family Waterpark.