Florida Keys teeming with tourists, seeing record summer crowds

Typically, tourism in the Florida Keys is slower during the summer months, before the arrival of snowbirds, allowing many Floridians to enjoy a near-home, easily accessible, economical and relaxing getaway, but not this summer.

This year, it’s a whole different story for the string of tropical islands scattered off the southern tip of the Sunshine State. Non-local visitors flock to the Florida Keys for their post-pandemic domestic vacations, driving up hotel rates and creating long lines at landmarks, attractions and restaurants.

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“Every tourist attraction has a long line,” Boca Raton resident Dara Krauss, who visited Key West and Islamorada last week, told South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The resorts were full and hotel prices were high. There was almost nothing to be had. Her family is one of those who usually vacation abroad during the summer, but has chosen to stay in the United States this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We do a lot of small trips to the United States,” she said.

One of the reasons for this anomaly is the fact that many countries, including Canada, will still not accept American tourists, as the world continues to fight COVID-19 and the highly contagious Delta variant. Neighboring Mexico and much of the Caribbean are open to American visitors, but venturing outside the country still seems to be a risky prospect for many American tourists.

For example, one could get stuck in a foreign country if the borders closed without warning due to changing COVID-19 conditions. International travel could be further complicated by wearing a mask, quarantine and pre- or post-travel testing requirements set by the destination, and the need to retest to re-enter the United States. Yet everyone is desperate to travel right now.

Airlines have also recently increased flight connections to the Keys, likely prompting more travelers to consider a trip to the archipelago. Allegiant, American, Delta, Silver, JetBlue and United all started offering non-stop service to Key West International Airport in June, where a record number of passengers had already been reported earlier this year.

The arrival of masses and increased demand have driven up consumer costs, with the destination’s average daily hotel rate rising from $ 288 per night in 2019 to $ 385, according to the Keys Tourism Development Council. Sold-out tour operators and restaurant owners with crowded premises report the same influx of tourists.

As of May, the Islands had a record hotel occupancy rate of 83.6%, while occupancy in Key West alone reached 91.3% with an average daily hotel rate of $ 412.38, figures which the Council described as “astonishing”.

Sheldon Suga, vice president and general manager of Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, gave a partial explanation for the increase in hotel prices, saying the cost of hotel operations has increased exponentially since COVID-19 has closed the majority of businesses which, then, might only reopen with new sanitation and health protection measures in place.

Suga said that employees are currently in short supply and his current staff are receiving higher wages to keep them going, that the new cleaning protocols are more complex and labor-intensive, and that the new cleaning protocols are more complex and labor-intensive. feed prices from its suppliers have increased in recent months – by up to 60 percent for some beef products.


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