Ashley Serrate, Media Relations Manager for The Florida Keys with Jerry Grymek of LMA Communications.
Grassy Flats Resort and Beach Club
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Little Palm Island Resort
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Seven Mile Bridge
A few things come to mind when you hear ‘Key West’ or ‘Key Largo.’ To some it’s their famous key lime pie or conch fritters, to others a lyric in a Beach Boys tune or a non-stop uninhibited sunset celebration.
But for 2020, as Ashley Serrate, Media Relations Manager for the island chain explains, there’s a different priority.
“The main focus this year is all about sustainability and how you can experience the best that the destination has to offer, and rather than leaving a footprint, we’re encouraging you to leave behind just a fingerprint.”
For the most impact, ‘voluntours’ at a reef restoration centre are popular for educational programs on land or by sea for experienced divers who outplant coral, which helps restore the reef to a healthy state. Day excursions are popular for replanting at local gardens or taking part in a shoreline mangrove clean-up program.
Visitors can even help the Keys environment through their choice of meals. The lionfish is an invasive species on the Florida reef that is damaging the eco-system, so through a ‘conservation through consumption’ program, the culprit is now on the menu at many local restaurants.
Keys visitors can also contribute through little things like being mindful of the type of sunscreen they use, as some varieties cause damage to the delicate reef system. And as many of the bars and restaurants have implemented a no straw policy, they offer metal straws for purchase, or paper to reduce single use plastics.
Resorts are taking up the eco-challenge, like the Grassy Flats Resort and Beach Club, where reclaimed wood was used in construction, single-use plastic is banned and solar power panels help power the resort. The resort hopes to be fully powered by the sun in the next two years.
The Florida Keys are a 200-km chain of islands linked by 42 bridges, the most famous being the Seven Mile Bridge, connecting regions Marathon with Big Pine Key.
Five regions encompass the Florida Keys, each with its own claim to fame:
- Key Largo, the diving capital of the world, and home to the first all-inclusive in Florida - the Bungalows Key Largo.
- Islamorada, the sport fishing capital of the world
- Marathon, made famous by the Seven Mile Bridge, which is undergoing a transformation to include pedestrian walkways and cycle paths to Pigeon Key. It’s also one of the more ‘family-friendly’ areas of the Keys and home to Isla Bella Beach Resort, a 5-star set on 24 acres which opened in early 2019.
- Big Pine & The Lower Keys, known for the protected species Key Deer found in one of three nature reserves in the region. A private island resort by the name of Little Palm Island Resort is set to reopen its doors in April 2020 after undergoing extensive renovations following Hurricane Irma 2017.
Key West is not only a popular cruise port, but also famed for its spectacular nightly sunset celebration parties at Mallory Square.
Why send your clients to the Florida Keys? According to Serrate: “It’s great for family travel, multi-generational trips and an untapped pre/post cruise market.” Port of Miami or FLL are a short distance away by car, approximately two hours to Key Largo.
Her message to travel agents: “The Keys are here – don’t forget about us! It’s a great destination, from high end to affordable, there’s something for everyone.”
To become a Florida Keys specialist learn more at https://fla-keys.com/keylimeacademy/
Karen Dahdah Columnist
An avid traveller, adventure seeker and travel expert for over 15 years, Karen has toured over 35 countries around the world. She shares her first-hand knowledge of unique and off the beaten path destinations including hidden gems in Asia, adrenaline-rushing African safaris, and the fascinating culture of French Polynesia.