Florida Keys to Reopen to Tourism Ahead of Schedule, October 1

Empress of the Seas docking in Key West, making it the first cruise ship to call at the destination following Hurricane Irma // Photo by Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO

After the damage the island chain sustained during the passage of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Keys have announced that they will be ready to welcome back tourists ahead of schedule, on October 1.

Previously, tourism officials had estimated that the Florida Keys would be able to reopen by October 20, to coincide with the beginning of Key Wests Fantasy Fest. The destination was already able to welcome cruise ship calls this past weekend, however.

At the same time, tourism officials caution that not all lodging, including RV resorts and other tourism facilities, are operating on a normal basis, and are advising visitors to call ahead to ensure that their hotels and favorite attractions are open. Some hotels are also accommodating displaced residents.

In other hotel news, Xenia Hotels & Resorts reports that its Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa was partially reopened September 22. Xenia is still working to fully assess storm-related damage and expects the hotel to fully reopen in the next few weeks.

Key Largo and Key West were least impacted by the hurricane, according to officials, and recovery efforts are still ongoing in the Lower Keys and parts of Marathon, which were hardest-hit. Motorists should use extreme caution when navigating these regions and stay off side roads to avoid hindering restoration activities. Throughout the Keys there are significant debris piles that are being picked up by cleanup contractors.

Officials said that the decision to reopen the Keys was based on winding up some of the most immediate infrastructure repairs, including the restoration of power and water from Key Largo through Marathon, as well as throughout Stock Island and Key West. Cellular service is also working well, officials say, but restoration of Comcast cable television and Internet is lagging behind other utilities.

Bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway passed inspections and several roadbed breaches were repaired. Key West International Airport has reopened and commercial service has resumed, as has general aviation. Florida Keys Marathon International Airport is processing general aviation and charter flights again.

Some special events have been postponed or canceled, while others, including Key Largos Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, set for October 18-22, Marathons Stone Crab Eating Contest scheduled October 21 and Key Wests Fantasy Fest, slated for October 20-29, are to take place as planned.

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