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Florida Prepares For Tourism Season After Irma

People walk through an airport

Two months from now, the Atlantic hurricane season ends, just as Florida’s tourism season begins.

Gov. Rick Scott announced last month that Florida had the highest number of visitors in a six-month period in its history. Nearly 61 million people visited the state in the first half of 2017.

Now, a month later, the state is recovering from a direct hit by Hurricane Irma. This raises the question of if Florida can recover in time to keep its record-breaking momentum going.

The executive director of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau, Tamara Pigott, joins Gulf Coast Live to talk about what the county expects tourism season to look like after Irma.

Just south of Lee County, Collier took the eye of the storm at its strongest. Once heavily favored in Florida’s ecotourism sector, Collier’s pristine beaches, botanical gardens and airboat rides are all still in the process of recovering.

Pigott’s counterpart for the Naples, Marco and Everglades region, Jack Wert, joins Gulf Coast Live to talk about how tourism looks for the southernmost regions of Southwest Florida.

And, Lee Port Authority’s director of air service development, Carol Obermeier, knows a lot about local tourism, as most visitors arrive through Southwest Florida International Airport. She talks about preparing for these guests while coming off of the active hurricane season.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.