Despite dire predictions of huge declines in holiday hotel reservations, Key West and the Florida Keys fared quite well over the holiday week between Christmas and the new year.
When Key West Mayor Teri Johnston announced a 10 p.m. curfew for the new year weekend, officials from the county’s lodging association predicted a dismal weekend with occupancy as low as 40% to 50%.
But visitor reports compiled by Smith Travel Research for the Monroe County Tourist Development Council for the week of Dec. 27 through Jan. 2 show occupancy rates that were very comparable to the same week last year.
Key West hotels, from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1 saw occupancy rates of 93% to 96%, which were about the same — or within a percentage point — of last year.
Occupancy rates in the rest of the Florida Keys, at the start of the holiday week, were 3 to 8 percentage points lower than the same dates last year. From Dec. 27-31, 2020, hotels outside Key West were 80% to 93% full. In 2019, hotels and other lodging properties outside Key West reported 95% to 96% occupancy from Dec. 27-31, 2019.
But the end of this year’s holiday week, Jan. 1 and 2, 2021, hotel occupancy outside Key West actually surpassed 2019 figures by 4 and 8 percentage points.
The figures below show occupancy rates for Key West and the rest of the Florida Keys for the week of Dec. 27-Jan. 2:
KEY WEST OCCUPANCY
Dec. 27, 2020: 87% (2019: 94%)
Dec. 28, 2020: 93% (2019: 94%)
Dec. 29, 2020: 96% (2019: 96%)
Dec. 30, 2020: 93% (2019: 96%)
Dec. 31, 2020: 96% (2019: 96%)
Jan. 1, 2021: 95% (2019: 95%)
Jan. 2, 2021: 86% (2019: 88%)
FLORIDA KEYS OCCUPANCY (EXCLUDING KEY WEST)
Dec. 27, 2020: 81% (2019: 96%)
Dec. 28, 2020: 88% (2019: 96%)
Dec. 29, 2020: 92% (2019: 96%)
Dec. 30, 2020: 89% (2019: 95%)
Dec. 31, 2020: 93% (2019: 96%)
Jan. 1, 2021: 90% (2019: 87%)
Jan. 2, 2021: 83% (2019: 76%)
HOW WAS HELL WEEK?
Locals have a name for it — Hell Week. It’s the seven days between Christmas and the New Year when the Florida Keys welcomes visitors in record numbers. For workers in the food and beverage industry, or hospitality, it’s a grueling seven days. Traffic is thick and grocery stores are mobbed. In 2020, though, the annual influx of visitors was a welcome and needed shot in the arm for the Keys economy. Keys Weekly reached out to various business leaders in the community to see how it went:
“Many of our members reported strong a Hell Week when compared to previous years. The main difference, of course, is a lot of last-minute bookings for the lodging industry which is par for the course during the pandemic. One thing that was welcome was that many of our visitors in vacation rentals elected to stay for two weeks instead of one week. That’s great. We are attributing the reason to the fact that most kids are still in virtual school, the families didn’t have to rush back home.”
— Daniel Samess, ceo, Marathon Chamber of Commerce
“This was our first opportunity to sell out the entire property, including the 27 suites that are new, to fill all 161 rooms. It worked out great. Overall, it was good to see the amount of people traveling down here for warm, decent weather. We were very pleased with Hell Week.”
— Michael Weber, general manager, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Marathon
“From Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 we were sold out every day. Our occupancy rates are strong, thought the rate may be weaker. All things considered, I’m thrilled with that; the hotel industry is going to survive. Most of our customers are from the drive-down market, many who are rebooking to the Keys to avoid Miami. The Keys are the perfect spot because of all the outdoor activities.”
— Jill Campbell, Hampton Inn, Marathon
“We looked like we were almost at 100% capacity moving into the Christmas holiday. Then it kind of tapered off just a little bit and boosted back up again for the New Year’s Eve holiday. We are getting a lot of drive down traffic from other parts of the state and cars from the northeast. People are getting in their cars, and that’s their confidence level that they don’t have to be in an airplane or on a bus. So far, we are probably the most fortunate key because we are the easiest to be accessed.”
— Elizabeth Moscynski, president of the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce
“Everyone was very, very busy. For business it was great. We’re hearing it didn’t match 2019 between Christmas and New Year’s, but it was very good. We are seeing people are willing to be out and travel.”
— Judy Hull, executive director of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce
“We made the best of it. Generally I think things went well. We are continuing to be respectful of existing circumstances while doing business. Our staff and talent have been supportive and making it all work.”
— Michael Ingram, owner of Aqua Nightclub and the Aquaplex compound
“It was our busiest period since reopening in June. Was great to see our guests following the safety guidelines necessary for visiting our tours and attractions. We are in a bit of a lull at the moment, as one would anticipate after the holiday.”
— Clinton Curry, director of Key West operations for Historic Tours of America
“It was a pleasant surprise to see small glimpses of normality during Christmas week. I just wish it would have ended in the same manner as it started. What happened on New Year’s Eve was avoidable and unnecessary in my opinion. Curfews don’t work. They create issues; they don’t fix them. But that was then. Here we are starting 2021. We’re eager to see what this year has in store for all of us. We are Key West and we will survive.”
— Bill Lay, Key West restaurant owner
“Fury has continued to operate at significantly reduced capacities in an effort to provide safe social distancing. I’m pretty sure we’re the only [watersports] company still doing that. Our captains, crew and customers have really appreciated that.”
— Scott Saunders, owner of Fury Water Adventures