After more than a year of staying in, people are flocking to Florida for vacation.
It’s expected tourism will pick up even more during the summer months, traditionally the slower season.
Right now, Fort Myers Beach is packed, leaving restaurants slammed and hotels booked.
Many businesses in Fort Myers Beach are hiring additional staff because they’re busier than they could have predicted.
It’s a Wednesday, but a look at the beach would leave you thinking it was the peak of season.
“I think this is a wonderful thing for local businesses,” said Melissa Schneider, marketing director for the Lani Kai.
Schneider said the Lani Kai Hotel needs additional workers to serve people flocking to the beach.
“If there’s any hospitality workers out there that want to join our team, we’re looking for servers, kitchen staff and the like, give us a call,” Schneider said.
The Lani Kai isn’t alone.
“People are actually coming today for some interviews,” said Jason Ingream, owner of Mango Ritas.
Business owners said business is back, but not enough workers are.
“I think with that there’s a lot of short-staffed help in a lot of local businesses,” Schneider said. “New people that weren’t ever in this industry. Maybe their industry was affected by COVID. And they’re using this as an opportunity to get into the restaurant and service industry.”
Prior to the pandemic, the summer months meant slower business on Fort Myers Beach.
But many business owners now say the seasons are changing because of COVID-19.
Hotels are reporting they are at 100% capacity and their reservations are not letting up.
The same goes for restaurants.
“People always say oh, wow, you know, six months in July, August is kind of hot, isn’t it? But I’ve been through the cycle. It’s so much nicer than the winter,” said Mark Ambert, of Jupiter, Florida.
Ambert, a former northerner, moved to Florida a year ago.
“We’re now full-time,” Ambert said. “The beaches are absolutely gorgeous, pristine.”
Businesses on Fort Myers Beach agree.
Normally, after Easter, you’ll see like a dip of people, you know, like you got a lot of people leaving,” Schneider said. “And that usually gives the time for like the locals to kind of come out of hibernation. And this year has been very different this year.”
“We’re seeing that we’re filling up way quicker than we normally do in the summertime months, which is normally a quiet time of the year,” she added.
Schneider has begun to see an extended season.
“So what we’re told by the Chamber of Commerce has told us that most of the places are booked past July 4 weekend, which is unheard of at this point in time,” Ingream said. “It’s a good thing for everyone.”
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