The destruction Hurricane Ian left behind will be felt on Southwest Florida for years to come. When there are so few places to stay on the local beaches, the financial impact is felt throughout the entire county.
The Lee County Tourist Development Council reported the preliminary bed tax collected for April of this year was $3 million, a 57% decline from April 2022 when $7 million was collected. Year-to-date a total of $25.3 million worth of bed tax money has been collected, a drop pf 46% when compared to 2022.
Thanks to Hurricane Ian fewer people are coming to Southwest Florida. During April, 981,000 passengers traveled through Southwest Florida International Airport, a 20% drop from 2022. Year-to-date, passenger traffic is down 20% when compared to a year ago.
Those negative numbers will continue until more hotels and vacation rentals come back online. On Fort Myers Beach, Margaritaville will most likely be the next big resort to open. However, due to permitting issues with the town, the resort opening, originally planned for late 2023, will most likely be moved to early 2024.
Vacation rentals on Fort Myers Beach are beginning to open back up slowly after months of owners repairing homes that could be salvaged under the 50% FEMA rule. However, with only a handful of restaurants open on the beach it’s a tougher sell to get tourists to come down, especially this time of year which is the typical “off-season.”