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Post-Hurricane Irma, Fort Lauderdale Beach is back to normal and ready to welcome beach goers
Post-Hurricane Irma, Fort Lauderdale is back to normal and ready to welcome visitors and beach goers

Editor’s Note: This post has been and will continue to be updated as more hotels, resorts and businesses report in (last update: September 22), so please revisit this page for the latest information. 

Hurricane Irma impacted millions of people across the state of Florida and left the tourism industry—the state’s largest and most profitable industry—reeling from the damages left behind. As the Sunshine State starts bouncing back to its pre-hurricane glory, travel agents are undoubtedly fielding questions from their clients about the fate of their already-planned and, in some cases, already-booked vacations.

With recovery efforts underway in full force, many hotels, resorts and attractions have already reopened their doors to visitors, with some even offering special discounts. While the status of tourism in various parts of Florida is continuously changing, here is what we know now about each region of the state.

The Keys and Key West
The Florida Keys are known for their fiery-colored sunsets and laid-back vibes, but the 125-mile long chain of islands also bore the brunt of the impact as Hurricane Irma made landfall in the U.S., forcing a mass evacuation. Residents and business owners have since been allowed to return, but the Keys remain temporarily closed to all visitors as extensive infrastructure repairs and restoration efforts are still in progress.

“Every day things get better,” said Andy Newman, media relations director for The Florida Keys and Key West Tourism. Newman has been particularly impressed with how quickly utilities restoration is moving along, describing the efforts as “superhuman.”

All bridges have been inspected and all necessary cleanup and repairs to the Florida Overseas Highway are complete; however, officials are still discouraging visitors from driving through the area as to keep the roads clear for residents and restoration crews. The Port of Key West has also reopened for daytime operations, and the first cruise ship port call is expected Sunday, Sept. 24, or Tuesday, Sept. 26.

“The Keys have come a long way in a short time,” added Monroe County administrator Roman Gastesi, “but we still have work to do to get the Keys ready for visitors.”

City officials from Key West, have said they will reopen in time for Fantasy Fest, the well-known annual costume and masking festival set to start on Oct. 20, 2017. This is also the targeted date for the grand reopening of all the Keys, although that date may be advanced.

Playa Largo Resort & Spa, The Perry Hotel Key West, Sunset Key Cottages, Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina, and The Courtyard by Marriott Marathon Florida Keys are just a few of the properties currently reporting that they are ready and open for business once visitors are permitted to enter the Keys again. Casa Marina and The Reach, Waldorf Astoria Resorts in Key West have a reopening date of Oct. 13, while the Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo is scheduled to open in early November. In Islamorada, Amara Cay Resort and Pelican Cove Resort & Marina expect to start welcoming guests on Oct. 9, and La Siesta Resort & Marina and Post Card Inn Beach Resort & Marina hope to reopen by December.

The team at Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key is currently assessing the impact the storm had on the resort and a reopening date will be announced soon. In the meantime, the resort will waive the cancellation policy for any upcoming reservations.

For the most up to date information on the recovery efforts and tourism in the Florida Keys, visit fla-keys.com.

Aerial photos show the destruction in the Keys.
Aerial photos show the destruction in the Keys.

South Florida
After wreaking havoc in the Florida Keys, Hurricane Irma made its way to outh Florida causing damage on both coasts of the state with the east faring better as the storm took a more westerly path.

After dealing with flooding and loss of power in many parts of Miami-Dade County, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported last week that nearly all hotels in the area “suffered minimal to zero damage.” The Sept. 15 press release also stated that the city of Miami and its Beaches are officially open and accepting guests.

The Setai, Miami Beach; W Miami; ME Miami; 1 Hotel South Beach; Leslie Hotel; Nassau Suite Hotel; Circa39; El Paseo Hotel and Stanton South Beach are just a few of the hotels that are open in the Miami and Miami Beach area. For a more comprehensive list of hotel openings curated by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, visit global.miamiandbeaches.com.

News of Miami and the Beaches opening comes shortly after Miami International Airport reopened its doors and returned to full operations with most airlines resuming their normal flight schedules. PortMiami operations are also back to normal.

Moving farther north, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades resumed operations as of Sept. 15, and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau delivered the news that all hotels in the area emerged from Hurricane Irma relatively unscathed.

“The storm was bigger than ever imagined and very concerning for our visitors and 1.9 million residents,” said Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a press release.

Many hotels in the Fort Lauderdale area remained open throughout the storm providing shelter and accommodations to both locals and visitors. As of last weekend, the hotels that did lose electricity have had their power restored, and officials from the Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau are happy to report that hotels and local businesses are up and running.

Moving along the East Coast to the Palm Beaches, minimal damage occurred and Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover the Palm Beaches, reported that “all area tourist attractions are open, vibrant and bustling, and the ocean is as inviting as ever.”

Southwest Florida, unfortunately, did not have as much good news to deliver. While the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau reported that the region is still “in recovery mode after Hurricane Irma,” signs that those efforts are going well can be seen throughout the area as more and more businesses, hotels, and resorts begin to reopen their doors.

In Naples, the Edgewater Beach Hotel is already open, and The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club reported that it will reopen this coming Monday, Sept. 25. The hotel’s golf course is set to reopen on Oct. 2.

Less than an hour north in Fort Myers, the city is returning to normal operations with all flights resuming out of Southwest Florida International Airport. Fort Myers is also set to host its annual Islandhopper Songwriter Fest as scheduled on Sept. 22 through Oct. 1. Nearby in Bonita Springs, the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa remained open throughout the storm and sustained no structural damage.

South Seas Island Resort, a beachside property located on Captiva Island, is welcoming guests a week earlier than anticipated and is marking its reopening with a Return to Paradise special with rates from $159 per night and complimentary daily breakfast for two. To book a room through this promotion, visit reservations.travelclick.com.

South Seas Island Resort has bounced back and is ready for visitors.
South Seas Island Resort has bounced back and is ready for visitors.

All beaches in Lee County, including Fort Myers, Sanibel and Bonita Springs, have also been reopened following completion of water testing by the Florida Department of Health.

Despite taking a tough beating from Hurricane Irma, there is also some good news to report out of Marco Island. While the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort will start accepting overnight guests on Oct. 2, the resort already reopened five restaurants on the property with all of them offering a 15 percent discount to local residents.

Central Florida
In Central Florida, the city of Orlando rebounded quickly after dodging a major hit from Hurricane Irma. After closing for a historic fifth time in the almost 46 years since its inauguration, Walt Disney World reopened two days after the hurricane and is welcoming thousands of daily visitors as usual. Other reopened attractions in Orlando include Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay, SeaWorld, Legoland and more. For a complete list of open attractions in Orlando as well as other updates from the city, head to visitorlando.com.

Residents and business owners in the Tampa area also suffered less damage than originally anticipated in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

“Irma is gone. And she left behind very little damage to Tampa Bay,” the official tourism website of the city reported in press materials last week. Things are back to business as usual with most restaurants and all major attractions, including Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Florida Aquarium, welcoming vacationers and locals with open arms and discounts.

Vero Beach and Clearwater are still working on power restoration efforts and debris pickup but have opened the majority of their beach parks, and put lifeguards on duty as well.

Sarasota also experienced temporary power outages but recovered quickly and will host the World Rowing Championships as scheduled Sept. 23 through Oct. 1.

Cape Canaveral, a Central Florida city known for launching cruise ships and spaceships, is also getting back to normal with the Coast Guard removing waterside restrictions allowing for commercial vessels to resume operations.

North Florida
As Hurricane Irma moved across the entire length of Florida, the storm weakened and caused less damage in the northern region of the state.

Daytona Beach is recovering rapidly, but as many residents and hotel properties are still without power, the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau of the city recommends agents to call individual hotels to confirm that they are open.

In St. Augustine and its surrounding beach areas, many tours, attractions, restaurants and hotels are back in business and ready to help visitors immerse themselves in Florida’s Historic Coast.

The waters in Jacksonville continue to recede and flooding is now contained to riverfront residential areas. The city is once again welcoming visitors with virtually all tourism infrastructure back in business.

“We are fortunate that despite some riverfront areas in our historic neighborhoods flooding as a result of the storm, our beaches, hotels, park system, and attractions had very minor issues related to Irma and are back to normal,” said Paul Astleford, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville.

Farther north, the picturesque Amelia Island reported minimal damage with hotels already welcoming visitors and many offering special discounts. For a list of Amelia Island properties currently offering deals, visit ameliaisland.com.

The Panhandle
Hit by only the outer rain bands of a weakened Irma, the Panhandle of Florida sustained virtually no damage in the wake of the state’s largest hurricane to date. While the Gulf Coast beaches were temporarily off limits due to rough waters, conditions have since returned to normal.

This post is intended to provide an overview of the status of the tourism industry in Florida and will be updated as new information is available. For additional information regarding the openings of state parks and attractions across Florida, visit floridastateparks.gov and floridaattractions.org.