Laura Layden | Fort Myers News-Press
There’s no sugarcoating it.
Hurricane Ian hammered Southwest Florida’s vibrant and growing tourism industry.
Before the storm made landfall in September, 2022 looked to be a record year.
Then came the unexpected and the unthinkable: A near-Category 5 storm that caused mass destruction, along and near the coast, with powerful winds and an even more powerful storm surge the likes of which has never been seen in Southwest Florida.
The hurricane hit Lee County especially hard.
Barrier islands took the brunt of the storm, including tourism hotspots such Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, which will take years to rebuild after suffering catastrophic losses to homes, businesses and landmarks, including coastal hotels and resorts.
Collier County took some big hits too, such as in the Vanderbilt Beach area where the Ritz Carlton, Naples was forced to close for major repairs and lay off hundreds of workers. But it was spared much of the widespread devastation that clobbered Lee County. Collier’s tourism industry rebounded more quickly, though not yet fully.
With so much devastation, Lee has not surprisingly seen a big drop in tourism, but the industry is bouncing back, with its bridges and arms back open to visitors.
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