The Resilient Florida Keys Are Ready To Welcome Canadians

with Peter Johansen

Ashley Serrate of The Florida Keys & Key West and
Jerry Grymek of LMA Communications, Canadian media representative.

Ashley Serrate from The Florida Keys & Key West tourism board flew into snowy Ottawa this week to assure Canadas travel industry that her region is almost back to normal after unwelcome guest Hurricane Irma blew through the island chain in September.

After screening a short post-recovery video that helped confirm her message, Serrate said properties continue to reopen in the wake of the storm.  

Overall, the destination has 67% per cent of its accommodations back online, she told Open Jaw. That ranges from 84% in Key West and 76% in Key Largo to lows of 31% in hard-hit Islamorada and about 50% in both the Lower Keys and Marathon.  

Those numbers will continue to rise. For example, Amara Cay Resort will reopen in mid-December and Cheeca Lodge in mid-January. Both are in Islamorada, one of the hardest-hit areas, so thats a real sign of progress. Others have just recently begun welcoming guests again, including Parmers Resort on Little Torch Key.

In Key West itself, Parrot Key and the Inn at Key West remain shuttered, though the latter was slated to close for renovations anyway, Serrate said.

Almost all attractions throughout the Keys are operating normally, she added, and some water-based activities such as fishing and scuba diving have actually benefited from the hurricane. Fishermen have reported an increase in catches of such species as mangrove and yellowtail snapper, while divers with experience in the area have also noticed differences.  The Vandenberg ship wreck, for example, has shifted 30 degrees, affording better viewing.

In another development, Key West has introduced a free shuttle bus along Duval Street, the popular shopping area.   

Serrate recalled a sign she recently noticed that read: After the storm theres a rainbow.

She added: The Keys are resilient. Even folks who lost their own homes have worked hard to resume business, not just for tourists but for their staff.”  After all, more than half the employment in the Keys is tourism-related.

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