SWFL tourism heats up heading into the summer

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

Tourism is heating up, as more people start to travel during the summer after becoming fully vaccinated. But the industry in Southwest Florida has been trying to rebound for a while.

Packed beaches and busy restaurant crowds in the region received mixed headlines for booming business, while people in other states sat in pandemic lockdowns.

Tourists we spoke to Wednesday were ready to explore Southwest Florida.

“We had an opportunity; we got vaccinated; and we came down,” said Kevin Guy, who was visiting from New Jersey.

“We like the beach, so that’s why we came,” said Shearard Westbrook, who was visiting from Michigan.

Some visitors had been to the region before, having either friends of family in the area, while other were first-timers.

“I definitely just saw a lot of my friends on Instagram coming to Florida and different parts, especially Marco Island,” said Molly McCoy, who was visiting from Chicago.

Jack Wert is the executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention Bureau.

“The message now is, ‘Only paradise will do,’” Wert said.

That message being advertised around the country is paying off. Wert said Collier County is inches from pre-pandemic levels.

“Certainly, there in spending,” Wert said. “Number of visitors still a little bit off, but we’re very pleased with the demand for travel.”

Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, said this rebound comes despite all the negative pandemic related media coverage the state has received.

They put a price tag on it — $107 billion worth of bad publicity.

“We heard of some of it,” said Marcos Gonzalez, who was visiting from Colorado. “About how they’re opening up too soon.”

“People saying it’s not safe to come to Florida,” McCoy said.

“That wouldn’t have stopped us at all,” Westbrook said.

Bad publicity has not hurt Lee County either. The county told us the tourism numbers are strong, with a lot of pent-up demand.

The next visitor and convention bureau’s meeting is in two weeks when we will know the exact numbers.

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