Rebuilding SWFL tourism more than a year after Hurricane Ian

Reporter: Annalise Iraola Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

The Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau held its annual tourism outlook meeting to see if people are returning to our community after a year of rebuilding.

Several business owners sought advice on pushing things forward and getting past Hurricane Ian’s damage.

It’s no secret Southwest Florida’s tourism industry took a big hit after Ian.

Peter Greenberg, the travel editor for CBS, was this year’s Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau’s keynote speaker for the 2023 Tourism Annual Meeting.

“The key takeaway is not that you’re rebuilding buildings, you have to rebuild trust, you have to rebuild stories, you have to rebuild a reason for people to come and come back,” said Greenberg.

Hundreds of locals and business owners are searching for answers.

“How do we bring tourism back to our community,” asked Tamara Pigott, the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau executive director.

“In 2022, visitors spent over $4 billion in our community, and we want that money coming back,” said Pigott. “We want to bring those dollars back to our community to make our local businesses and people in our community employed and have successful businesses.”

Lee VCB introduced its My Fort Myers marketing recovery campaign, designed to get people back to SWFL through a variety of ways, from songs to using influencers. Bob Rando, a local businessman and co-owner of Captiva Cruises, got a surprise and standing ovation.

“I was in shock. I was slightly shaking. I don’t know if you could tell when I was on stage,” said Rando.

Rando and the co-owners of Captiva Cruises received the Junonia Award. The award recognizes individuals who positively impacted Lee County’s tourism community through leadership, commitment and dedication.

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