Since Hurricane Ian hit southwestern Florida’s Fort Myers last autumn, the tight-knit community has been working hard to get tourism back on track. The storm had already hit Cuba and strengthened to a Category 4 storm by the time it made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island west of Fort Myers, on September 28. Its 150mph winds triggered a huge storm surge and flooding which wreaked havoc along parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast, claiming 149 lives. Tamara Pigott, CDME Executive Director of Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, describes the community’s remarkable resilience and recovery.
Q: How have Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva recovered since Hurricane Ian?
A: Our hearts go out to so many who lost homes, businesses and property in our destination, and throughout the state. Things improve here every day. Several of our magnificent beaches on Sanibel and Captiva have reopened, restaurants continue to serve an amazing array of delicacies, and many of our most appealing attractions continue welcoming guests, including Historic Downtown Fort Myers, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, the Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs and boat rides to Cabbage Key.
Q: Is the destination ready to welcome international visitors again?
A: We are absolutely open and ready! Fort Myers’ Islands, Beaches and Neighbourhoods, in Southwest Florida, are made up of over 100 barrier islands strung along the Gulf of Mexico as well as many unique inland communities.
The area is rapidly returning to the world-class destination it once. Businesses are finding creative solutions to continue to serve their customers, and our residents are working hard to ensure that everyone who comes to visit us experiences the warmth and friendliness of our community. We can’t wait for our UK friends to join us.
Q: Are there any new resort openings which UK agents should be looking to sell?
A: Yes! Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers Beach is scheduled to open in the latter part of 2023, offering a unique, first-class experience for visitors. Several of our well-established properties like the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach and South Seas Island Resort on Captiva are also improving their facilities and guest experiences.
Q: Does Fort Myers have any campaigns or trade initiatives planned for 2023?
A: We do. Our travel trade activity includes exciting events such as Visit USA Unite in London in March and an agents’ showcase in Chester and Harrogate. We have destination and recovery campaigns in progress with Lastminute.com, Charitable Travel and National Geographic, and we are also planning campaigns with Expedia, Sojern and Tripadvisor.
Q: What kind of traveller does Fort Myers attract?
A: We welcome a diverse range of visitors who come for the warm weather, warm welcomes and sunny days. The area is renowned for its rich history, seashells, sunshine and wildlife including dolphins, manatees, alligators, roseate spoonbills and snowy egrets.
Our beaches are beautiful, flora magnificent and activities non-stop, from discovering the native wildlife at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, manatee watching at Manatee Park on the Orange River, getting active with some exciting water sports and, of course, enjoying our sugar-sand beaches.
Q: When is the best time to visit?
A: We are known for our perfect winter weather – our busiest season is during the coldest months everywhere else! – but any day is a great day to visit Fort Myers.