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Lee County tourism expected to rebound by next spring

Flights increasing at RSW is just one sign that tourism is recovering in Lee County. Leaders say that it could be back on track by spring.

When the pandemic first hit, it heavily impacted Lee County’s tourism industry.

“In 32 years, we built this business up to an amazing, amazing company and in two weeks I saw all of our work just go whew… down. It’s heartbreaking,” said Jeanne Bigos, who manages the Outrigger Resort.

Jeanne Bigos has spent three decades as the General Manager of the Outrigger Resort. She’s seen the lowest low but now she’s seeing people come back.

“They started coming in as soon as we were allowed to open and they started to come over from the East Coast, from the Tampa area,” Bigos said.

Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau Executive Director Tamara Pigott believes Floridians traveling across the state is just the start. Without the in-state visitors, things would be a lot worse.

“While I never thought I’d be pleased to say were down only 11.5%, that is the case,” said Pigott.

That’s our Bedtax Deficit at work. Tourists pay that when they stay in our hotels.

“An additional reason for my optimism is the returning and new air service that has been recently announced,” Pigott said.

For example, new non-stop flights from Los Angeles and Seattle beginning next month.

“The beach is beautiful, the people are kind, can’t get much better than this and it’s raining in Ohio,” said Connie Rue, visiting from Ohio.

“People want to know that you’re following the CDC guidelines, they want to know that there’s plenty of room for them to social distance, even our trees social distance, they want to know that they’re gonna be taken care of,” Bigos said.

With all the things going on, people say they’re comfortable going to the beach now. Another sign things may get better is that the weather is getting colder up north and in the Midwest.

The Visitors and Convention Bureau predicts that leisure travel will be back up to normal levels by spring 2021.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Drew Hill
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