No room at the inn: Florida Keys packed with tourists during holiday week



In the tourism-driven Florida Keys, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is perhaps the busiest of the year and gives way to the much-anticipated January-through-April season.

And from the look of things, this year is no different, as hotels and other accommodations Keyswide are reporting booming business for the holidays.

"In our little corner of paradise here, things are really hopping," said Barbara Maddox, co-owner of Porky's Bayside BBQ and adjoining Captain Pip's Marina and Hideaway on the bayside of Marathon's Old Town. "We've got all [11] of our rooms rented, all [14] of our rental boats are rented. Porky's is busy. Definitely everybody seems to be here for the holidays."

At the 40-room Coconut Cay Resort and Marina adjacent to Florida Keys Marathon Airport, general manager and partner Steve DeRoche said this week is busy and 2013 as a whole has been "up every single month."

He said that on Tuesday, his occupancy was at 84 percent but from this Thursday through the new year, "We're sold out. In fact, most of us [in Marathon] should be sold out."

The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce had more than 380 people stop through its Overseas Highway location on Monday, many asking about lodging and dining options, according to office staff. In response to the frequently asked questions, they posted on the door outside a list of restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Lou Gammell, a longtime bartender at the iconic Sloppy Joe's on Duval Street in Key West, opened the bar on Christmas.

"Christmas, typically everything is 100 percent. It's a great day in the bar. It's a very good spirit ... even at 9 in the morning."

Jodi Weinhofer, president of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West, said its members are reporting they're "booked solid. This is generally our busiest week of the year."

Historic trends provided to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council by Smith Travel Research bolster that observation. Smith Travel is a voluntary room-occupancy reporting agency.

Between Dec. 25, 2012, and Jan. 2, 2013, Key West's more than 5,500 hotel rooms had occupancy rates ranging from 95.3 percent to 99.5 percent, with the average daily rate hitting a high on New Year's Eve of $410.32 (since then, five hotels with a combined 534 rooms have temporarily shut for redevelopment).

Weinhofer says the lodging industry nationwide is in an upswing in terms of average daily rates.

"We're finally out of that down period. Rates are up and the economy is coming back," she said. "Showing up this week without a room would be like showing up over Fantasy Fest without a room."

That holds true in the Upper and Middle Keys, too, where Smith Travel's data indicate occupancy between Dec. 25, 2012, and Jan. 2, 2013, at between 93.4 percent and 98.6 percent, with average daily rate topping out on New Year's Eve at $381.63.

Key West also benefits this time of year from cruise-ship and airplane visitors, with December 2012 boasting more than 65,000 cruise passengers arriving in a combined 31 port calls. There were 43 port calls scheduled this month, with 11 between Christmas and New Year's days.

Read more Florida Keys stories from the Miami Herald

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