Pandemic Causes Big Drop in Visitors to Sanibel

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Traffic counts from the Sanibel Causeway show exactly how much the pandemic impacted visitors to the island this past year. Since 2015 about 3.3 million vehicles had been consistently passing over the $6 bridge. In 2020 that number would change drastically.

That number dropped to 3 million in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, according to new figures released Thursday by Sanibel City Manager Judy Zimomra and Finance Director Steven Chaipel. The City also closed beach parking and instituted a mask mandate which contributed to visitors staying away.

The January 2021 numbers are also down, 11%, compared to January 2020.

The big drop-off really began in March of 2020 when it became clear the virus was going to be a very serious national emergency.

Visitors to Sanibel went from 356,000 in March of 2019 to 266,000 in March of 2020. In April, the bottom fell out. In April of 2019 just under 315,000 vehicles traveled over the Sanibel Causeway. In 2020 that number fell to 123,000.

The City has been keeping stats since 1975 when 795,000 vehicles traveled over the Sanibel Causeway. Two years later over one million cars crossed the bridge. In 1984 there were 2 million vehicles and 1990 over 3 million. 2001 was the peak year for vehicles heading over the causeway when 3.46 million made the journey over to the island.