After closing to visitors on March 22, the Florida Keys had recently announced that the destination will be accepting visitors again starting on June 1. That’s today !© felixmizioznikov / iStock / Getty Images Plus Key West Florida
Naturally, there are plenty of people hesitant to resume traveling amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has already caused many travel restrictions and the closure of popular tourist destinations. The lack of tourism is financially devastating many businesses in the travel industry, so many destinations such as the Keys have decided to cautiously reopen to visitors.
In an interview with TravelPulse, the president of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, Stacey Mitchell, reassures travelers that the safety of tourists, locals and employees will be the Key’s top priority upon reopening.
In fact, it is because of safety concerns that the Monroe County TDC decided to reopen on June 1 rather than a popular tourism time period like Memorial Day Weekend.
“We are opening up per the state guidelines, in phases,” said Mitchell. “And right now we’re in Phase 2, which allows businesses to open at 50 percent maximum whether it be restaurants or retail shops, and we really wanted to give residents a chance to get used to being out and about. Rather than just go ahead and open up the entire county to residents and visitors, we are doing so in a measured slow roll.”
While many businesses are eager to make up for lost time, Mitchell made it clear that businesses that are hesitant to reopen at this time are not required to do so.
“The private sector can determine when they feel comfortable reopening or not,” said Mitchell.
Additionally, hotels, restaurants and stores will continue to enforce social distancing to both employees and guests and have updated their cleaning procedures and disinfecting measures to ensure that COVID-19 will not spread. Visitors will also be expected to continue to wear face masks.
Luckily for travelers, many of the activities that draw visitors to the Keys such as snorkeling and scuba diving allow them to follow safety guidelines.
As Mitchell pointed out, “The lifestyle [in Monroe County] is conducive to activities like riding a bike and when you’re under the water scuba diving, you’re basically socially distancing!”
Unlike other areas in Florida, Mitchell is not worried about the beaches in the Keys being packed with overzealous guests as the Keys’ beaches tend to draw more watersport enthusiasts than sunbathers.
“The Florida Keys aren’t really known for our beaches. We’re known for our nearshore waters, but not for traditional beaches like you’d see in California or the Jersey Shore. We have great water access for watersport activities and our natural resources are conducive to practicing social distancing measures,” said Mitchell.
“People who come down here want to go snorkeling, they want to go scuba diving, they want to go fishing, they want to go paddle-boarding, they want to go kayaking out in the mangroves. Because we have such interactive marine resources, our visitors aren’t apt to just lie on the beach like a traditional beachgoer. There’s just so much more to see and do.”
Through phased reopening and enhanced safety initiatives, the Florida Keys can begin its tourism rebound under a new normal.