Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Coronavirus Crashes High-Flying Keys Hotel Industry

The natural beauty and subtropical climate of the Keys help hotels in the area lead the state in hotel occupancy and room rates.
Rob O'Neal
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The hotel industry in the Florida Keys normally leads the state in occupancy and room rates this time of year. But the coronavirus has changed everything.

WLRN is committed to providing South Florida with trusted news and information. In these uncertain times, our mission is more vital than ever. Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you.

Last May, hotels in the Keys had an occupancy rate of almost 80 percent. And they were getting almost $300 a room on average.

Those numbers were climbing even higher this year — until the coronavirus came along. The Keys closed to visitors March 22 and there's a checkpoint at the county line. Only people who live, own property or work in the Keys are allowed in.

The latest reports provided by Smith Travel Research to the county's Tourist Development Council shows the impact: For the week of May 3-9, the hotels were at 6 percent occupancy.

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit Smith Travel Research
The Florida Channel

Who is staying in Keys hotels? Essential workers like construction crews, health care workers — who are isolating from family — and locals getting their homes tented for termites, according to Jodi Weinhofer, president of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West.

Renting rooms requires special permission from Monroe County or the city where the hotel is located.

Weinhofer said hotels are scrambling to survive the shutdown, which is particularly difficult since the county has not provided a timeline for reopening.

"We're losing a lot of contract workers — if they can go somewhere else, they're going somewhere else," she said.

And the high cost of living in the Keys, a challenge even when fully employed, is leading others to leave the area, she said.

"If you can't pay your rent, it's so expensive that people have gone somewhere else to stay with family and friends. And I don't know if they'll come back or not," she said.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.