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Heidi Rambo Centrella

There has been much in the local news lately regarding upheaval in the realms of restaurants and hotels, traffic and housing; some seasonal, some pointing toward a more permanent shift in the region. One could make the argument that before-COVID life has gone into the history books, and there’s no such thing yet as a “new normal,” because to have normalcy would require some level of consistency. After all, normal means usual, typical or routine … and we’re having basically none of that.

Rather, we’ve been watching real estate deals explode for larger-than-imagined returns on investments; continued, yet unusual, growth in the hospitality industry with record-setting numbers; and housing issues that range from the surge in apartment sales to the elusive problem of affordable housing.

Traffic at RSW in April hit a record with 1.2 million passengers, and the first four months of 2022 saw passenger traffic increase by 34% from last year, with March breaking a record for most monthly passengers.

An eye-opening look back on this past season (pg. 30) depicts just how much has changed, and may even give a glimpse into what we can expect in the future. 

Restaurants have seen an enormous increase in business. As one restaurateur put it, “It was the busiest we’ve seen by a long shot. By far, not even a question,” when asked about this season’s business. And fewer restaurants are closing post-season.

Occupancy rates in hotels also show that tourism is alive and well, which is an economic boom considering the bed tax revenue that surged year over year. Tourist tax revenue hit a high in March over any other month on record, even when compared to pre-pandemic numbers. Hotels have been faring so well that we’re seeing more and more investment in these homes away from home. Long-time hotelier Phil McCabe sheds light on the sale of his iconic Inn on Fifth, as well as other major local properties that have changed hands—Inn of Naples, Naples Grande and Naples Beach Club, to name a few.

Several franchises are under construction; other properties, such as Hotel Indigo, renamed Banyan Hotel, in Fort Myers and The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, are undergoing major renovations. Read more about the state and direction of this industry on page 46.

From an economic standpoint, on a hyper-local level, it would appear this has been and continues to be a great year for Southwest Florida—gas prices, supply-chain issues and inflation notwithstanding. Just don’t plan on using that term “normal” anytime soon. 

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