Fort Lauderdale hotels in recent days have gotten phone calls from prospective tourists, who are concerned their planned vacations could be ruined by beach erosion.
The worry comes from seeing nationally televised images of the destruction from churning waves in the city, including a crumbling sidewalk and seawall, officials say.
“We’ve had tourists calling hotels asking if they should change their reservations,” said Matt Little, city spokesman. “They’re worried what they see on the news is indicative of the entire beach.”
Concerned about the misperception among tourists, the city now is reminding the public it’s not the whole beach that’s affected. The damaged stretch of A1A, about the length of a football field, is a small portion when compared to miles of beaches in the city.
“It's only about 100 yards of beach, and we've got five miles of beautiful beach,” Little said. “It does not impede access to hotels, restaurants or beaches. The section of the roadway is totally in a residential area.”
The eroded part spans from around Northeast Fourteenth Court, just north of East Sunrise Boulevard, to around Northeast Eighteenth Street. Pounding waves and high tides have worn away much of the sand in that area of beach, creeping all the way up to A1A.
But whether the eroded area affects the city’s tourism remains to be seen. While some hotel workers worried there might eventually be fewer guests, others said business was normal Wednesday.
“Looks can be deceiving. I’ve not had any problems around my area,” said Edward Otto Zielke, the general manager of the Grand Palm Plaza, just a few blocks from the erosion. “It’s pretty good where we’re at.”
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Though some local hotels have received calls from people asking about the erosion, the chamber “is not aware of any cancellation because of it,” said Dan Lindblade, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.
In a worst-case scenario, the images of the erosion could have become “negative publicity” for the city and "spiraled out of control," but “we think it’s fairly contained at this point,” Lindblade said.
Lindblade has jogged along that affected stretch and, while it may be “interesting to look at,” it’s not a large segment of beach, he said.
Responding to the erosion, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau recently sent an advisory to travel agents to emphasize that the county’s 23 miles of beaches all remain “warm, welcoming and open,” said Nicki Grossman, the agency’s president and CEO.
She said the tourism bureau is unaware of any erosion-related impact on tourism. The release of the advisory was a “proactive” move, meant to let everyone know it still is great to visit Broward, she said.
“There is absolutely no reason to change their plans,” she said. “Come to greater Fort Lauderdale and enjoy the weather.”
Jimmy Everritt, 56, a Fort Lauderdale resident who works at an A1A hotel north of the damaged area, said if the area is not repaired by next month, it would put a big hurt on hotels’ finances.
“I’d be kind of upset if it’s not corrected,” Everritt said of the beach. “They definitely need to correct it.”
Road crews for days have kept stacking concrete barriers along the shoreline, and truckloads of additional barriers were scheduled for delivery, officials said.
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“If you’ve seen any of this area, you can see that the barrier wall that was placed out there is doing what we hoped it would do,” said Barbara Kelleher, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. “It is stopping the waves from eroding the sand any further, and it's collecting the sand that's depositing on it."
Road crews may keep working along the beach for weeks, if not months. Additionally, a new task force should come up with a permanent solution soon, including a plan to put in more sand and keep it from washing away, city officials said. Rebuilding the shoreline could cost millions of dollars.
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The affected part of State Road A1A has been narrowed from four lanes to two lanes. By next weekend, A1A's lanes should be restriped to reflect the narrowed roadway, Little said Wednesday.
Hotel employees said they have noticed a downtick in traffic, likely because commuters know to stay away from the area. Little said the restriping should further ease A1A traffic.