Collier County tourism rebound after Ian

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Paul Dolan
Naples Pier is still not safe to walk on after Ian. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Many resorts and hotels are closed and have no timeline on when they will be open again after Hurricane Ian.

Employees at these hotels have been laid off leaving many places understaffed and people without jobs. But, Collier County said they still are open and have a lot to offer.

The Ritz Carlton Beach Resort in Collier County is shuttered indefinitely and has laid off nearly 600 employees. And the nearby La Playa Resort won’t be open again until at least mid-December.

But, on the bright side, Collier County’s tourism director said almost 80% of hotel rooms are open as of Monday, and that the county is resilient.

The Naples Pier with caution tape on it. (CREDIT: WINK News)

A clear reminder of how recently and powerful Ian was is the Naples Pier which is still not safe to walk on.

“I thought it would be more cleaned up than it is. The pier is gone…piles of trash on the street everywhere you go, just not the same, the pool you can’t use the pool,” Gil Montgomery said. “I wouldn’t recommend coming right now. I’d wait until it’s over.”

But, Paul Beirnes, the executive director of the Naples Marco Island Everglades visitors bureau said his team is not marketing Collier County for right now.

Beirnes is aware more recovery time is needed, but he has a more positive way of looking at the pier’s destruction.

“It has been rebuilt five times, four of them by storms, one of them by a careless cigarette that burned it down,” Beirnes said. “This will just be the sixth time and you know what? We’ll build back bigger better and stronger.”

That’s the county’s message and what their strategy is in terms of marking and tourism, focusing on resiliency.

“This is one tough destination. And that’s really to be celebrated. Tragedy happened but all you have to do is go down 5th Avenue third look around,” Beirnes said. “It’s amazing how in such a short period time we reopened.”

WINK News went down 5th Ave. and it is beginning to look a bit more normal even while you can see the ‘closed’ signs in windows.

A closed sign on a storefront on 5th Ave in Naples. (CREDIT: WINK News)

The question really is, will tourists return for the season? And Beirnes is confident that they will.

As for the beaches, the county’s biggest draw, he said it’s only a matter of time before they’re back to normal.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.