Sanibel, Captiva businesses try to rebound after Ian as July 4 arrives

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Businesses on the islands of Southwest Florida are looking for a tourism boost after surpassing the nine-month mark after Hurricane Ian.

Last week, Sanibel and Captiva were able to say that Lighthouse Beach and Causeway Beach have reopened. However, when Ian’s ferocious storm surge charged the beaches, it also took customers away.

At one point, the island even asked people not to go there, but nine months later, businesses are being hurt by reduced foot traffic.

While the beaches fill up ahead of Independence Day, Sanibel and Captiva feel a sense of normalcy.

Businesses and restaurants go hand in hand with hotels on Sanibel and Captiva. The resorts and hotels on the islands have been slow to reopen, hurting everyone else. They’re hopeful the long holiday weekend sparks a recovery sparked by those driving to the beach.

Regardless of what people decide to do at Lighthouse Beach, they will have fun. For Indiana resident Marsha Hay, it’s a tough place to beat.

“It’s got my heart, it really does,” said Hay.

Visiting Sanibel with her family for the past eight years, Hay knows the area well. Her history with the area includes the day she and her husband renewed their vows.

“All my grandchildren were here, 19 and one great-grandchild and all my four children, so no fighting,” said Hay.

Driving around the islands shows there’s still more to be done. Restaurants and stores continue to reopen, but hotels are trailing behind.

“Everything follows accommodations. Until we begin to build the accommodations back up month by month, businesses on the island are going to continue to struggle,” said Richard Johnson, the Mayor of Sanibel.

Therefore, the upcoming July 4 holiday is desperately needed on Sanibel and Captiva — an opportunity to bring people back to show things are improving. It’s another way to demonstrate that people can spend their money in shops and restaurants.

“It’s bringing more people back this week, which is, in turn, they’re telling their friends, and they’re telling their friends that they want people to come,” said Jim Olivo, who works at Beach Stuff Inc.

“We need folks to come out, support those businesses, so they’ll be there in the long run to support the community,” said Mayor Johnson.

Johnson said right now, the island has 200 rooms. He expects that number to grow in the coming months. That’s why businesses depend on those who come to spend the day.

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