The Florida Keys, which were battered by Hurricane Irma, are set to re-open to visitors this Sunday – more than two weeks earlier than expected.
The island chain had previously targeted October 20 as the date it would welcome tourists back after the category four storm hit on September 10.
Potential visitors are advised that while it is safe to travel to the Keys, recovery efforts are ongoing, especially in the Lower Keys and parts of Marathon which were hardest hit.
Visitors are advised to call their hotels and attractions in advance to check it is open and motorists have been warned to use “extreme caution” although bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway have passed inspections and repairs have been made.
Officials say almost all power and water services have now been restored and mobile phone service is “working well”. But the full restoration of television and internet connections is “taking longer to re-establish”.
Monroe County Mayor George Neugent said: “We know we have a long way to go before the Keys fully recover, but because tourism is our top economic engine and many of our residents’ livelihoods depend on it, we also know that we need to begin asking visitors to return.”
UK travellers planning a visit to the Keys can access the island chain from this weekend through the normal gateway airports of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. International airports in Marathon and Key West have reopened to aviation traffic and The Port of Key West is now welcoming cruise ships again.
While some special events have been postponed or cancelled, key upcoming events include Key Largo’s Humphrey Bogart Film Festival (18-22 October) and Key West’s Fantasy Fest (20-29 October), both of which will take place as originally scheduled.