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Accommodations weigh decision of reopening for business

By Staff | May 5, 2020

(Editor’s note: Story has been updated to clarify that the recent shuttering of some types of rental accommodations on Captiva were voluntary, not due to recent state or county restrictions.)

With multiple accommodations on Captiva choosing in recent weeks to voluntarily not accept new reservations in light of COVID-19, some are now deciding whether to reopen their doors for business.

Hotels, motels, inns and resorts on the island have been exempt from recent county and state restrictions on vacation rentals. With the governor’s unveiling of his initiative for reopening Florida, some entities have plans to start taking bookings again, while others plan to wait a bit longer.

Sandy Stilwell, owner of the Captiva Island Inn, Celebration House and Harbour House, reported on April 30 that her rental business would again begin to take new reservations starting with May 4.

“Our front desk will be open as of Monday,” she said.

“We’re already starting to get some inquires,” Stilwell added.

She explained that it will be a soft opening, however.

“We’re kind of hoovering over our reservations,” Stilwell said, adding that the focus is more localized. “We’re very selectively taking reservations from our past customers and some of my local friends.”

For instance, there is no advertising aimed at out-of-state clients planned, which would be normal.

“It’s going to be a gradual opening is, basically, what I’m doing,” Stilwell said.

Over at the South Seas Island Resort, Director of Marketing Verdell Ekberg explained that the accommodation is holding off on taking new bookings until mid-May or even early June.

“We’re going to follow Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel at this point,” he said.

Last week during a special meeting, the Sanibel City Council voted to extend the city’s existing restrictions that prohibit any new reservations for an additional two weeks, through May 15.

Ekberg explained that the resort is taking it day-by-day, week-by-week to see how things go.

“Before we reopen, we want to make sure that we have everything in place, from new safety and cleanliness standards, to staff training,” he said.

Ekberg added that the safety of both the guests and employees are a priority.

“We want to open smartly, more so than quickly,” he said.

As of April 30, Jensen’s Historic Twin Palm Cottages & Marina and Jensen’s “On the Gulf” were not 100 percent certain yet whether they would be reopening their doors to guests starting this week.

“Everything seems to be changing daily,” co-owner John Jensen said.

On May 3, he provided an update on their decision.

“We opened up this weekend for room rentals and ended up with about 50 percent occupancy,” Jensen said via email. “Most of our guests are from a big group from Fort Myers that are past customers.”

“We are leaving the rooms open for a day or two between reservations so we can do a thorough clean, not that we did not do it before,” he added.