DEC 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 The AWARDS Issue! Limiting Economic Setbacks While parts of the Florida Keys were among the areas that did suffer damages from Hurricane Irma, tourism officials sought to reassure travelers that not all areas had been affected. Just three weeks after Irma passed over the island chain, an announcement was issued stating that the keys had been reopened to visitors. Local officials chose Oct. 1 as the official reopening date based on the speedy completion of significant infrastructure repairs, almost total restoration of utilities, and necessity of resuming the tourism-driven economy that em- ploys about 50 percent of the Keys workforce, according to Stacey Mitchell, director of mar- keting for the Florida Keys Tourism Council. In making the announcement, she also urged people to consider the importance of tourism to the area economy and its residents. "By welcoming visitors to the destination, it will provide the jobs and the hope that our residents are looking for so they can begin to rebuild their lives," Mitchell said. While Key Largo and Key West were least affected by Irma, a number of lodging prop- erties and other tourism facilities in the Keys haven't yet resumed normal operations. In late November, recovery efforts were ongoing, especially in the Lower Keys and parts of Mar- athon that were hardest hit by the storm. "It's been a road of recovery and continues to be so, but we've made enough prog- ress where the infrastructure is ready to accept visitors," said Mitchell. "By the visitors coming down, they're helping in the recovery and being part of that process." To reassure travelers, the Oct. 1 announcement pointed out that Key West and Marathon airports were open, the Port of Key West was hosting cruise ships again and the Florida Keys Overseas Highway had passed inspection and was easily drivable throughout the 125-mile island chain. Additionally, the tourism council confirmed that several special events in the Keys scheduled for mid to late October — including Key West's Fantasy Fest, Marathon's Stone Crab Eating Contest and Key Largo's Humphrey Bogart Film Festival — would take place as planned. Among the properties damaged by Irma, Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada announced in late November that it would be re-opening Dec. 15, with all repairs completed "We are thrilled to welcome guests back to our slice of paradise," said Eddie Sipple, area general manager of Islamorada Resort Compa- ny. "I am incredibly grateful to the dedicated team of construction workers and associates who worked diligently to restore Amara Cay Resort. We are re-opening this resort with pride and a true sense of community." The 110-room resort features several special event spaces, including the poolside Sparrows Tiki Deck, the "Glass Bowl" indoor space, an event lawn and beach area. n Mitchell Photos of the Florida Keys were distributed to the media three weeks after Hurricane Irma struck to show that things were back to normal. To reassure travelers, photos showed the Florida Keys Overland Highway back in operation following safety inspections.

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