Thousands of Jimmy Buffet fans wrapped up their annual Parrot Heads convention in Key West Sunday, marking the first significant infusion of visitors and cash into the community since tourists were ordered to evacuate the island chain ahead of Hurricane Wilma.
It brought some relief to hotels, restaurants and other Key West businesses struggling to make up an estimated 50 million dollars in sales lost because of Wilma. Chair of the Florida Keys & Key West Lodging Association, Joy Smatt - a resort manager herself - says the resorts and their employees are encouraged.
"I think they're feeling wonderful. I know that our employees, fortunately we were able to make them whole with their salaries, however I know that a lot around town, they're just so beside themselves they're so happy that finally business is coming back and we're getting back to some sense of normalcy."
Although Wilma hit October 24th, the order for visitors to leave came five days prior, also forcing the island's biggest event of the year, Fantasy Fest, to be shortened and rescheduled to Dec. 7th through the 10th. Tourism-related employment accounts for approximately half the workforce in the Keys.
Monday, 07 November 2005 00:00