Eight months after Hurricane Ian, most beaches and hotels are open in Fort Myers

SAN ANTONIO — Almost 70% of hotel rooms in Fort Myers are open again, eight months after Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s west coast as a Category 4 storm. 

Speaking at the IPW conference here in late May, representatives from Fort Myers — Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods said that about 10,000 rooms have reopened. 

“That 10,000 is a number that keeps increasing every day,” said communications manager Miriam Dotson. “There are businesses reopening every single day, and there are new businesses coming in and wanting to plant their roots there. 

“And for the record, many and most of our beaches are currently open,” she said. 

Three hotels on Fort Myers Beach, which sustained some of the most catastrophic damage from the hurricane, are planning to reopen this summer: Gullwing Beach Resort, which has partially reopened, will reopen to all guests on June 30; Hampton Inn & Suites is taking reservations for stays starting June 13; and Lovers Key Resort is accepting reservations for arrivals in August. 

Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva were among the areas hardest hit when Ian slammed ashore Sept. 28, with many roads and bridges either closed or washed away. Some of the larger properties that are still closed include South Seas Island Resort, Sundial Beach Resort and Spa and the Neptune Resort. 

At least 13 beaches in the Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva area are already open, and two more parts of Fort Myers Beach are expected to open this month, Bowditch Point Park and Crescent Beach Family Park. 

“We’re getting there,” Visit Florida CEO Dana Young said about the area’s recovery. But she added it was still going to take time. “Fort Myers Beach has to be rebuilt,” she said. “Geographically it’s a small area, but it’s just heartbreaking to see.”

Two more parts of Fort Myers Beach are expected to open this month, including Bowditch Point Park.

Young said that many of the properties able to open more quickly were the newer ones. 

“New construction makes a huge difference,” she said. “That’s why a lot of the properties that were built more recently with the stringent coastal construction standards were able to withstand [the storm]. Some of the more historic properties just couldn’t.”

Farther south, the area called the Paradise Coast that includes Naples and Marco Island was spared much of the major damage that the Fort Myers area endured. 

About 90% of hotel rooms were open by December, a number that is now around 98%, said Paul Beirnes, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island and Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

The Ritz-Carlton Naples, which had just undergone a major refurbishment when Ian hit, was among the most damaged properties. It is slated to reopen July 6.

“I’m thrilled to say that right now, when you travel the entire destination, bar none,  it is really almost impossible to find any visible signs that we even had a storm,” Beirnes said. “We were very, very fortunate, very blessed.”

Beirnes also said he was “thrilled” that public perception of the area’s readiness is high, a consumer survey showed, with about 80% of those surveyed believing the destination was back up and running by January.

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