BREAKING NEWS: KEY WEST’S NEW YEAR CURFEW CUTS HOTEL BOOKINGS IN HALF

News of Key West’s 10 p.m. New Year weekend curfew is spreading quickly, leading to significant hotel cancellations, according to lodging industry insiders.

City officials last week were concerned about hotel occupancy forecasts of 95 to 100% for the long New Year’s weekend – possibly 50,000 visitors passing the coronavirus as they party shoulder to shoulder.

Mayor Teri Johnston, with the support of Commissioners Jimmy Weekley and Greg Davila, stressed that she wanted to reduce the amount of holiday crowds in order to protect the community as much as possible. It seems that the mission is being accomplished.

Since Johnston announced the curfew on December 4th, the occupancy forecasts for the New Year’s weekend have fallen to 50 or 60% and are still falling, Jodi Weinhofer, President of the Florida Keys & Key West Housing Associationsaid Keys Weekly on December 11th.

“I think we will drop to 40 to 50% this weekend with the curfew,” said Weinhofer. “There is news about it in the entire industry and in all specialist publications and websites.”

The Associated Press picked up the curfew posted on news websites and television channels in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, North Carolina, and dozens of other cities in Florida and the nation.

In addition to the New Years cancellations, people are also canceling the Key West hotel bookings for the two weeks prior, Weinhofer said.

“For two weeks before the curfew was even announced, there were more cancellations than bookings every day,” she said, adding that the pre-New Year cancellations are the result of what is happening elsewhere, not Key West. People learn what rules apply in their hometowns or at work, and those rules affect vacation travel plans, she said.

Many places, including businesses, require 10 or 14 days of quarantine after someone returns from travel, and people are realizing they can’t afford to miss two weeks of work after being away, Weinhofer said.

New Year’s weekend hotel bookings are stronger in Marathon and the Upper Keys than in Key West, she said, pointing out that without the attraction of New Year’s Eve events in Key West, there are fewer reasons for people to drive all the way down the island chain. No curfew has been announced for the rest of the Florida Keys.

The Key West curfew will take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, December 31, January 1, and January 2, from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Alcohol sales end at 10 p.m. All non-essential businesses will be closed at 10:00 a.m. and employees will be closed from the streets and sidewalks unless they walk their dogs within 250 feet of their place of residence or go to and from work in an important business or religious service, the city’s policy states.

“It will certainly be different with a lot fewer people,” said Weinhofer. “The hotel industry understands that it’s not about hurting companies, but about protecting people. But the bars and restaurants, which are really in need of the influx of vacation business right now, will be hit hardest by this. ”

Hotels and guest houses alert guests and potential guests to the city’s curfew as soon as they make a reservation for the affected dates. Weinhofer added: “Nobody wants a guest to be surprised or angry when they arrive.”

As of December 12, no Key West hotel website visited by Keys Weekly mentioned the New Year’s curfew on a page before a credit card was submitted to complete a reservation, including a reservation on the curfew dates. However, most properties’ websites state that free cancellations are possible until December 30th or 31st.

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