Footprints in the Sand


Tourism is very important to the local economy of Lee County. As a matter of fact, tourism is pretty much the lifeblood of a good portion of Florida.

Footprints-in-the-Sand-FMB-ColumnThe recent pandemic has caused enormous hardship on the tourism industry and that in turn has a trickle-down effect on most local businesses and employees. As the pandemic restrictions are lessened and the ability of lodging, restaurants and services geared toward visitors slowly come back on line, we locals need to be much more aware of ways we can help rebuild the local economy. While the visitors from out of state and country will eventually return, it’s going to take some time for most faraway travelers to get past the fear of travel via air, bus and other forms of public transportation.

We Floridians are going to have to do our part to help pick up the slack.

The word staycation has been in the travel vernacular for quite some time, usually in reference to quick trips to places we have always wanted to visit in and around our local area, but haven’t made the time to get there. Guess what? Now’s the time. Personal vehicle travel will be the most likely means of venturing out for the foreseeable future, so why not visit attractions, resorts and all the amenities that go with them right where we live?

Book a weekend trip to a local resort. Perhaps hit the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach. Got an extra day or two? Head north to Punta Gorda or Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The options are endless and there are many, many great places to relax and get away from the stress of 2020.

I love dining out. I have favorite restaurants all over Florida. My wife and I are going to make a point of visiting at least one a week, not just because we are both tired of cooking, but we feel that it’s best to support the locals. I’m also not talking about just the gourmet restaurants. There are a lot of mom-and-pops that also need support. Here’s another related suggestion. Double your tips. If you’ve got the funds to do it, up the ante to 30 or even 40 percent of your dinner tab.

Tourism and Staycation-Waterside Cocktail-Fort Myers Beach-Rob Modys
Waterside cocktail with a great view, available all over Fort Myers Beach. Photo by Rob Modys.

I’m not sure about other folks, but I have been mostly shopping online for the past three months. It’s easy, and honestly it felt a bit safer. As restrictions are lessened it’s important to turn our focus to local shops. Perhaps visit a food specialty store for meats, fish and veggies. Hit up the small local hardware store for those needed repair items. If a family member or friend has a special event coming up, visit a local gift shop.

Local attractions need love too. There are lots of fun things to do and see in the Southwest Florida area that could use everyone’s support. Near and dear to me are my friends that own charter businesses. They’ll take you fishing, dolphin watching and shelling. You can even book a trip to watch another amazing Florida sunset, this time from the water instead of the beach. Rent a kayak or canoe and explore the small rivers and bays that dot the west coast shoreline. How about a game of miniature golf? They are open once again, are located outdoors and offer a lot of safe social distancing fun for the entire family.

These are tough times for all Floridians. Take care and do what you can to help the local economy. We all need this now more than ever.