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Hotels back in business

May 20, 2020
Nathan Mayberg ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Six weeks after being ordered by the town council to close their doors to the public, hotels on Fort Myers Beach are back open again following the council's lifting of restrictions to their operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hotels opened back up on May 15 and many saw an immediate response in new reservations, brisk business and parking lots full in some cases. Hotels had been limited to accepting reservations in only certain cases during the town's state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak though the state had never ordered hotels to close.

"It was terrific," said Pink Shell Resort owner Robert Boykin of opening weekend. He said 110 of the resort's 200 rooms were occupied this weekend. Boykin had grown concerned for the state of business and his employees since the town council initially shut most hotel business down.

Article Photos

Guests arrive at the Pink Shell Resort

"People are excited to be back as much to resume a normal life activity as to be back at our hotel," Boykin said. "Our customers are anxious to see us return to normal."

Boykin believes the hotel may be seeing benefits from the current ban on short-term vacation rentals as well as the stoppage in business for vacation cruise ships. He is expecting a busy Memorial Day weekend.

About half of the resort's staff were back to work this weekend. Boykin said the hotel's staff numbers will be adjusted as the weekends are busier than the weekdays. "We have to walk before we run," he said.

Boykin said that customers provided positive reviews for the safety measures taken by the resort, including masks for workers and the availability of hand sanitizers easily available throughout the resort. Lounge chairs at the pool were spread six feet apart to help maintain social-distancing. Erica Brown, multimedia manager for Pink Shell Resort, said staff did a deep clean of its resort, including the restaurant, all rooms and common areas, before reopening.

Boykin said some people who had only planned on staying a night or two, were extending.

At DiamondHead Beach Resort, General Manager Neil Hopgood said the hotel's 44 available rooms were all occupied over the weekend. The hotel has 121 rooms but had been doing renovations with the expectation they would reopen July 1 following the town council's 90-day ban on hotels in March which has since been lifted.

"I'm happy to say we're open," Hopgood said. Business at Cabanas Beach Bar & Grille was "very strong," he said. Hopgood expects to be opening up an additional 11 rooms each week and said the hotel is already sold out for Memorial Day weekend. During the week, he said between 30 to 32 rooms are booked.

The resort used the last several weeks to paint rooms and hallways. There was deep cleaning throughout all of the hotel as well as the pool. There are 20 employees back working at the hotel. The "million dollar question" is how many the resort will be able to bring back in the coming weeks, Hopgood said. Hopgood said that cleaning is "paramount to our operations" currently. The hotel will not be renting bikes due to the amount of time it would take to clean them after each use, he said. Hopgood said staff is focused on continuously cleaning its restaurant and pool areas. All employees are wearing facemasks and gloves. There hand sanitizers throughout the building and public areas.

"It's the new normal until we're told otherwise," Hopgood said.

"Business has gone very well," Lani Kai Island Resort Marketing Director Melissa Schneider said.

Schneider said all of the hotel rooms that were available were booked. Some rooms are being upgraded. Most of the hotel staff has returned, she said.

"We're so happy to see incoming guests once again enjoying our beautiful beach and restaurants while maintaining the proper social distancing between other parties. We've received many compliments on how our guests appreciate the extra precautions we're taking."



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