Naples businesses feeling the impact of fewer visitors in SWFL

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Fewer people are passing through Southwest Florida International Airport. In March, there was a 23% drop in passenger traffic compared to March 2022. Businesses on Naples’ Fifth Avenue are some of many feeling the impact.

WINK News spoke to a few business owners who said that last year they had plenty more reservations and longer wait times, meaning more work and more money.

Jose Miranda is a host at the Italian restaurant Vergina, located at 700 5th Ave. S. He has worked there for almost five years and says he sees a marked difference between the 2022 tourism season and this year.

“It’s always been good. This year is the first time we experienced it to slow down [a] little sooner than expected; we’re still picking up here and there,” Miranda said.

Miranda says it has still been a good year for them, but they are trying to find more ways to bring in customers.

“Actually lucky to be in a prime location here in the center of Fifth Avenue… we attract people, we got a nice patio, good food, we got events coming up. We’re still trying to do things to keep people coming in,” Miranda said.

Down the street, at Bistro 821, Manager Grace Ramirez says her restaurant is having a different experience.

“Same in the earlier hours, but honestly more during the later hours, and that’s new… that’s new for us,” Ramirez said.” We did expect to see a slight impact due to the hurricane. However, actually, we had the opposite: We had great success and seeing a lot of people come from the Fort Myers-Bonita area to visit us, so it’s been wonderful overall.”

According to the Lee County Port Authority, tourism season is anywhere from November to March. During March, 1,166,442 passengers traveled through RSW, which was a 23% drop compared to the previous year.

Naples residents Marilyn and Tony Cappone say getting a reservation at a restaurant on Fifth Avenue in any year is a scramble.

“We have friends coming, we have a lot of people that wanna visit; we say, ‘The places you want, we have to make reservations, otherwise you can’t expect to just call up in two days and get a reservation at the time that you want,'” Cappone said.

Business owners who feel the impact of less tourism tell WINK they are hopeful things will pick back up within the next few months with the approach of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

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