MARCO ISLAND — Talk of an economic recession, or worse yet depression, has many people worried about business and tourism. So when managers and owners of Marco Island-area restaurants and hotels found near steady bookings this Thanksgiving, they say they’re pleasantly surprised.
Chamber of Commerce President Gary Elliott suggests relieving “recession woes” with the relaxation of entertainment, a massage, a day or weekend out.
“Rent a bike or a boat and get lost,” Elliott suggests.
Perhaps his way of thinking has caught on this Thanksgiving.
Mike Ward, owner of Erin’s Isle Restaurant, said his Thanksgiving buffet reservations are at least holding steady from last year.
Overall, he says business has been doing better this October and November than last fall.
“The season is coming on slow for a lot of restaurants from what I hear. So I feel pretty fortunate. It’s better than I anticipated I’ll tell you that,” said Ward.
Personnel from hotel reservation desks are making similar comments.
“We’re great ... We’re flat to last year,” said Jada Shigley, director of reservations at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort Golf Club and Spa.
It’s not that Shigley and business owners are dropping the bar. They say they’re always hoping each year is better than the last rather than merely steady, however, given the economy, they are very pleased to be holding their numbers.
Shigley said the biggest difference so far this holiday is that people are making last minute decisions.
Thanksgiving bookings were down as of a couple weeks ago, but as the holiday drew near, hoteliers said their numbers returned to those of last year.
“People are stressing making their vacation reservations. Should we go? Should we not go? That’s what I was asking before I finally made my vacation reservations recently. I think customers feel like us,” she said.
The Marco Marriott has about 500 leisure rooms on the books this Thanksgiving and while Shigley said many may be downsizing their rooms or trimming on the extras, she is happy they are still coming.
Christmas bookings are currently below average at the Marco Marriott, but Shigley hopes it’s just a sign of a new trend of later bookings rather than a significantly slower tourist season than usual.
Late bookings for boat rentals can be tricky this Thanksgiving with many marinas, such as Cedar Bay Yacht Club, closed for the holiday. However Isles of Capri Marina is open on Thanksgiving day for full day rentals.
“We’re the crazy ones who like working Thanksgiving,” said Mike Paolini of Isles of Capri Marina.
Cedar Bay Marina may be closed on Thanksgiving Day but they are offering boat rentals for multiple days, so boat enthusiasts may rent the day before and throughout the weekend.
“It’s booming. It’s like the floodgates just opened up,” said Judy Svetaka.
The summer season was very slow for business at the marina, but the tourist season seems to be picking up on Marco Island, she said.