Florida Keys officials have announced that they are targeting Monday, 1 June to reopen the Keys to visitors following the island chain’s closure to tourists on 22 March.

The easing of visitor restrictions will coincide with the planned 1 June suspension of checkpoints on two roads leading from the South Florida mainland to the Keys.

Accommodation is to be limited to 50 percent of standard occupancy during the early stages of reopening. Local leaders will examine the situation later in June to make determinations regarding relaxing occupancy restrictions.

A green sea turtle swims amid the Florida Keys. (Photo by Frazier Nivens/Florida Keys News Bureau)

New coronavirus infections in the Florida Keys have been greatly reduced, health officials said, and the infection rate in neighbouring Miami-Dade and Broward counties has eased, enabling leaders in those counties to begin reopening businesses and public facilities. Those were key factors that led to the determination of a targeted Keys tourism reopening date.

An iconic road trip destination, the Florida Keys begin just 90 minutes’ drive south from Miami, and their five districts can be easily explored by car. The Overseas Highway with its Seven Mile Bridge is one of the world’s unforgettable routes. Often referred to as ‘natural Florida’, the Keys offer miles of wide-open spaces and an extensive range of sustainable water-based activities including snorkelling, diving and kayaking.

Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers said that Keys lodging and other tourism-related businesses are preparing for a “new normal” to host visitors.

Sunset over the Florida Keys
Sunset over the Florida Keys

New disinfecting and social distancing guidelines, as well as mandatory wearing of face coverings for both visitors and tourism industry staff members, are to be initiated with input from the Florida Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Carruthers said the county plans to enforce health guidelines.

Keys tourism officials expressed gratitude that the subtropical island destination is reopening to visitors.

“We appreciate and have supported local government and health officials’ decisions to minimise coronavirus infection rates in the Keys,” said Rita Irwin, chair of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the destination management office for the Florida Keys & Key West. “That said, we are most gratified that we can ease into hosting visitors again.

“Tourism is the economic lifeblood of the Keys and almost half of our workforce is employed in visitor-related jobs,” Irwin added.

While UK travellers await the go-ahead for international travel, travel agents and tour operators with customers looking for 2021 ideas and guidance can take advantage of the Florida Keys’ recently revised online training programme to top up their knowledge of the island chain and become destination specialists. The Key Lime Academy features stand-out visuals and video content together with maps and key destination information. It can be accessed here.

More details on the Keys are available at www.fla-keys.co.uk