Just over three months after Hurricane Irma impacted the Florida Keys, an Upper Keys resort and a major Middle Keys attraction, both hit hard by the storm, reopened Friday.
Tourists returned to Islamorada’s Amara Cay Resort and Marathon’s Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, among the island chain’s last major attractions to re-open.
Amara Cay Resort, positioned beside the Atlantic Ocean, re-opened its 110 guestrooms and suites in addition to various resort amenities. Workers and contractors mitigated water intrusion impacts and worked extensively to restore the beach and landscaping.
“Opening Amara Cay three months following Hurricane Irma is a really great feeling,” said Lourdes Torbisco, Amara Cay Resort marketing executive. “Our staff has been working tirelessly to get the resort up and going, so we’re very excited that this day is finally here to be able to showcase to our guests and invite people back to Islamorada.”
While almost all tourism facilities in less-affected Key Largo and Key West were able to quickly get back up and running by the Keys’ Oct. 1 formal reopening to visitors, others between the bookends of the Keys are requiring more time.
In Islamorada, 32 percent of hotel rooms are available compared to more than 90 percent in Key West and 76 percent in Key Largo, according to Keys tourism officials. Additional accommodations are to relaunch after Jan. 1.
“When you’re hit with something like Irma, it really disrupts (business) significantly,” said Ben Daughtry, managing partner of Aquarium Encounters. “But it’s time for everybody to come back … it’s time to get back to work.
Among the island chain’s last major attractions to reopen, Aquarium Encounters’ patrons can interact and feed Keys fish in a controlled environment,
“Without all of our tourists coming in, none of our facilities can operate,” he said. “My business wouldn’t operate without that tourist base, we need those folks to come on back.
“We’re open for business,” he said.
Saturday, Dec. 16, visitors and residents can enjoy free admission to Aquarium Encounters to celebrate its re-opening.