KEY WEST (AP) — Business owners and tourism officials in Florida’s Keys are enjoying an unusually busy winter tourism season.
The Florida Keys Citizen reported Saturday that early winter tourism is up significantly over last year.
Tourism leaders from Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Lower Keys all report strong numbers for the holiday season.
The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce says occupancy at the city’s 30 chamber-affiliated hotels is up about 90 percent.
“We have been extremely busy,” said Elizabeth Moscynski, vice president of the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce. “Visitor numbers have been astronomical.”
Islamorada’s occupancy rate, according to chamber executive director Judy Hull, was 100 percent the day after Christmas. That includes 56 lodges on the four-island chain. She said hotels have had to turn away walk-in guests because they are full.
Daniel Samess, executive director of the Middle Keys chamber, says they are seeing a occupancy rate around 94 to 96 percent, which includes 40 hotels encompassing 16,000 rooms, while Susan Miller, executive director of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, says her handful of member lodges have had a 100 percent occupancy rate for months.
The Key Largo chamber is also predicting a tourist season that will last through May 1 this year, about a month longer than the normal time frame. Local restaurant and retailers are celebrating the tourism boom and say business is greatly improved over the 2013 season.
Travel experts say the lower gas prices and rising airline prices have prompted more people to vacation within the continental U.S. and that this is helping bolster tourism in the Keys and elsewhere in Florida.