According to the CDC, Florida had 31,758 new COVID-19 cases Friday. The new record was driven by the spread of the new omicron variant, but that’s not stopping people from traveling to Southwest Florida for Christmas.
Businesses there say they’ve had a record-breaking year. People said they’ve been ready to get back to traveling and wanted to be somewhere warm for Christmas.
The families WINK News spoke with said they came down with friends and family, which made the decision of spending Christmas away from home a little easier.
2020 was already a record-breaking year for many businesses in Fort Myers Beach.
“This year was actually even busier than last year,” said Melissa Schneider, marketing director for Lani Kai.
Owner of the Sun Deck Inn & Suites, Daniel Clarkston, said, “I think it’s the best year Fort Myers Beach has ever seen in hospitality.”
The regular guests are returning, but the hotels say there are many first-time visitors, and that’s leading to record-breaking bookings.
“It’s crazy that it’s not even 2022, and we’re pretty much done booking-wise (through April). We have a day here and there. And we have a couple new properties opening up, too,” said Clarkston.
Jeff and Leisha are some of those first-time visitors. “It’s actually the first Christmas I’ve ever spent away from home,” said Jeff. Leisha said, “it still feels like Christmas here even though we don’t have snow down here.”
Their loved ones are also spending Christmas in Southwest Florida, making this decision a little easier to make.
Lisa Kramer from Kansas City is in the same boat, visiting family in Southwest Florida. “My son-in-law. It’s a dream. He’s always wanted to do it. And I’m like, ‘damn straight; we’re doing it.”
“Our first Florida Christmas, so yeah, we wanted to enjoy warm weather this year,” said Missy Tomkiewicz from Kansas City.
All of that translates to a record-breaking year for many businesses on the island.
Schneider said, “I’m so grateful for all of those who have chosen to come down here, visit us, visit our island, visit all these wonderful local businesses, and yeah, the island has really flourished from that.”
WINK News asked both hotels if they’ve seen an increase in cancellations with the new variant and recent flight cancellations.
They said cancellations are not increasing. Both said the boom in business will likely continue into 2022, with many of their rooms booked up into next spring.