Across Southwest Florida, coastal hotels suffered a big blow from Hurricane Ian.
Many remain shuttered, with no reopening date.
Hotels that are closed indefinitely include the well-renowned Ritz-Carlton in Naples and the iconic South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island.
"We are assessing the damage and currently the resort is without power, potable water, and accessible roadways. The resort will remain closed until further notice," Greg Spencer, CEO of Timbers Co., one of the ownership group partners for South Seas, said in a statement.
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The resort has seen an outpouring of support from its loyal visitors — and it will rebuild.
"Please know our goal is to restore South Seas Island Resort to its original grandeur as soon as we are able," Spencer said.
As for the Ritz, Ian updates have been much harder to come by.
The luxury resort — opened in 1985 — helped put Naples on the map. It was nearing the completion of a major multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion, with an unveiling expected in December — before the near-Category 5 storm packed a powerful, unexpected punch.
“The safety of our guests and ladies and gentlemen remains our priority," said Mark Ferland, area general manager, in a statement.
On the same street, but farther from the coast, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, remains open for business.
Other hard-hit beachfront resorts in the Naples area include the LaPlaya, which promises a return to its "tropical splendor" on its website.
In an email, Alexandria Hurley, a resort spokeswoman, said damages are still being assessed.
"We have begun the process of determining the best and safest way to reopen for guests," she said.
Currently, the resort expects to reopen on or before Dec. 15.
The nearby Vanderbilt Beach Resort, a small family-owned and operated hotel, is in bad shape, due to Ian's record-breaking storm surge.
In a message on the resort's website, owner Mick Moore said: "Like many properties along the Gulf Coast of Florida, we have suffered serious damage as a result of Hurricane Ian. We are without power and we cannot accommodate guests at this time."
Damage assessments are still underway, he said, but repairs have already started.
"We do plan on repairing the damage and reopening as soon as possible," Moore said.
Some coastal hotels are reopening
Farther north, the Naples Grande Beach Resort took a beating, but damages don't appear as severe, with a reopening slated for Oct. 10.
A statement on the resort's website reads: "Our team is focused on restoring all guest services and amenities at the resort. Access to the beach and beach amenities will remain closed until further notice as we work closely with local officials."
Down south on Marco Island, the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort is back in business. The JW Marriott isn't yet.
Ian didn't just hammer luxury resorts sitting on or near the Gulf of Mexico.
In downtown Naples, the small, quaint Lemon Tree Inn on U.S. 41 is closed indefinitely, reporting severe damage on its website.
Elsewhere in the city, The Cove Inn on Naples Bay remains closed.
While it could be weeks — or even months — before some resorts and hotels battered by Ian reopen in Collier County, others are already back in operation, or will be in a matter of days.
The Inn on Fifth on popular Fifth Avenue South is open.
The Hotel Escalante, 500 yards from Fifth Avenue South, will reopen Oct. 16. To the east, the Naples Bay Resort plans to resume operations Saturday.
After the storm, Collier's tourism bureau launched a daily call center to keep tabs on "all 116 accommodations partners" across the county, said Paul Beirnes, the executive director.
The focus, he said, is less on tourists and more on finding rooms for first responders, relief and utility workers and "of course, residents," displaced by the storm.
"There is no reliable estimate as to the amount of hotels that are open since many of them have lost landlines, intermittent cell service, or loss of power. Each minute the amount of properties improves with the restoration of power and the resumption of operations," Beirnes said.
All marketing to tourists has been suspended, he said, "until we are comfortable that the destination is capable of welcoming visitors back, without taking away from the focus that is on the recovery steps necessary."
The bureau, he said, is already coordinating and strategizing with its partner agencies on the "recovery marketing and communications plans globally," which will be deployed "when the time is appropriate."
"This destination is incredibly resilient and I believe everyone will be surprised at how well the hotel community rebounds," Beirnes said.
Hotels not ready to welcome back visitors
Some inland hotels that never closed during Ian, serving as shelters for evacuees and first responders at the ready — remain full.
Liz Sanders, area director of sales for Springhill Suites and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, near the county's sports stadium, said they're both full — and so are other properties she manages.
She's referring displaced residents and relief workers on waiting lists to other hotels as they reopen.
With the busy season ahead, she said, accommodations will be severely limited.
"Yes, there will be compression. With all the hotels that can not open," Sanders said.
In Lee County, the "compression" will be much worse, as damage from Ian is more extensive affecting far more properties, which could be closed a lot longer. It's a concern, as it could hamper recovery efforts.
In fact, Kevin Cleaveland of South Carolina reached out to the newspaper with concerns about the lack of hotel rooms for insurance adjusters. His wife, Delle, is an adjuster.
She's found a campground to stay at in LaBelle, for now, but management told her she might be kicked out in a few weeks to make room for northerners when they begin heading south for the winter.
"When you don't have places for adjusters to stay, when they are run out by snowbirds, then what do you do?" Cleaveland asked. "Then, you start losing adjusters."
That could prolong help — and recovery for residents and businesses.
In a few months, Kevin expects to head this way to help with waterway clean-up, but he questions whether he'll have a place to stay.
While it's unclear just how much damage hotels and resorts sustained from Irma, it's clearly tremendous. No estimates have surfaced in Collier or Lee counties.
In Lee, the county is "still in the damage assessment process, which includes assessing the status of hotels," said Betsy Clayton, communications director.
"Given the extent of the devastation from Hurricane Ian, there is no timeline yet for a resumption of tourism," she said.
As in Collier County, tourism marketing has been suspended in Lee County.
Would-be visitors have been asked to put travel plans to the region "on hold for the time being," given the extent of the devastation, including damage to the Sanibel Causeway and Pine Island bridge.
"The unthinkable happened. Our homes, our communities, our livelihoods have taken a devastating blow,” said Cecil Pendergrass, Lee County Commissioner and chairman of the county's Tourist Development Council. “What Hurricane Ian was not able to wash away, though, is our resilience. We will come through this just as we have all other crises before it. Our beautiful islands, beaches and neighborhoods will be rebuilt. Our bridges will connect us all again. We have steered through countless crises before and will do so again. Because that’s what we do. We roll up our sleeves and stand shoulder to shoulder to support each other and move forward, one step at a time.”
List of closed hotels runs long
In Bonita Springs the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort is closed "until further notice," due to Ian, according to its website.
Others closed indefinitely in Lee County include The Pink Shell Resort and the Sandpiper Gulf Resort on Fort Myers Beach, with heavy damage to both from Ian's wrath.
"We will rebuild, but our main focus now is to assess the extent of damage once the island is open to business owners again," said Katja Kunz, director of marketing, revenue and sales for Boykin Management Co., which oversees the sister properties.
When The Pink Shell gets up and running again, she said, the focus will not be on luring tourists — and they won't be open to vacationers "anytime in the foreseeable future."
"Sandpiper's damage is too great to house anyone at all in the foreseeable future," Kunz said.
With access limited to the island, hotels and resorts across Fort Myers Beach are closed indefinitely, including DiamondHead.
A statement on DiamonHead's website reads: "For the safety of the crews working on Fort Myers Beach, the island is currently closed as emergency personnel continue their necessary search and rescue efforts. Therefore, damage assessments are not yet available at this time and further updates will be provided when available."
DiamondHead is just one of a handful of properties in SunStream Hotels & Resorts' portfolio in Southwest Florida.
Others remain closed including the Casa Playa, GullWing, Pointe Estero Beach and Lovers Key resorts on Fort Myers Beach.
On a positive note, Sunstream's Park Shore Resort in Naples has reopened.
However, the much harder-hit Vanderbilt Beach and Harbor Club, about five miles away, closer to the coast, remains closed until further notice.
On the property's website, management stresses it "can not be occupied until deemed safe."
"At this time it is tagged unsafe. Local authorities say it may be weeks to even restore power and more to clean up and repair safety equipment and fire suppression systems," the message states.
Furthermore, management shared the property no longer has any pools, spas, grills, tiki huts or fences, with so much washed away by Ian. However, the buildings "held up well."
Costal resorts are "battered and bruised"
Back in Lee, The Lani Kai, a staple on Fort Myers Beach for decades, suffered extreme damage, with no word on a reopening date.
In a Facebook post, Melissa Schneider, marketing director, wrote: "We are still here, battered and bruised, but still standing. Bob Conidaris sure proved he knew what he was doing when he built our laid-back, come-as-you-are beach venue 43+ years ago, surviving a Cat 5, direct-hit hurricane."
She described what Ian did to the little island community as "absolutely devastating, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching."
"We are speechless, at a loss for words, but so fortunate that our crew and their families who took refuge in our hotel during the storm all survived and made it, but lost everything in the process. What they experienced that day, the things they saw, heard and felt, we can only imagine are things of nightmares."
Doug Babcock, CEO of Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, shared news about his four properties on a company website.
To best monitor the resorts, he and his wife Paige stayed on the island during the storm.
"Thanks to our first responders, we were airlifted off via helicopter on Friday afternoon," he said.
Before the rescue, Babcock toured the properties and saw the devastation firsthand, reaching them by bike.
"Castaways and Beachview are now memories, for the most part, with many cottages completely gone," he said. "On the brighter side, ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa and West Wind Island Resort are remarkably in good shape. With water, power and access to the islands, we could open in a few days; unfortunately, we know the infrastructure rebuilding process will take months."
He vowed to rebuild.
"Rest assured that Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts is ready and committed to rebuilding all of our four beach properties into a renewed, reimagined, reenergized form of themselves — or to coin my favorite term, evolve into a new, higher, better form," he said.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Hurricane Ian ravaged coastal hotels in Southwest Florida