Orlando hotels are filling up fast as thousands heed mandatory and voluntary evacuation notices to stay clear of Hurricane Irma.
Many local hotels are sold out but creating waiting lists since the storm’s path is still uncertain.
Kevin Craig, director of public policy for the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, said most of the area’s hotels are booked solid according to a check on availability. The association represents 80 percent of the hotels in the area.
All 5,000 rooms at seven Rosen Hotels & Resorts are sold out. Harris Rosen, owner of the hotels, dropped the prices for evacuees on Monday and by Tuesday most of the rooms were reserved, according to Mary Deatrick, spokesperson for the Rosen Hotels.
Rooms at their four leisure hotels – the Rosen Inn International, Pointe Orlando, Rosen Inn Universal, Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista – were offered for $59 a night. The chain was selling rooms for $79 at the its luxury hotels – Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre and Rosen Shingle Creek.
“Mr. Rosen felt it was the right thing to do because this is not a time to make money but a time to help people,” Deatrick said. “We were inundated with calls and filled up fast.”
The hotels are accepting pets and dropped all cancellation fees because the storm’s path is so unsteady. Deatrick suggested calling the hotels for reservations, in case guests cancel their plans.
Visit Florida has partnered with Expedia to help visitors and residents find a place to stay. Orlando hotels can still be found but many have “high demand” messages warning only one or two rooms left.
Grande Villas Resort dropped their rate of $163 a night to $114 and 88 people made reservations Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Expedia website.
Evacuees from South Florida have been heading north and many have found rooms in Central Florida.
Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, ordered mandatory evacuations Wednesday. Miami-Dade County evacuated people with special needs and advised residents living in low-lying areas to start evacuating. Broward County issued voluntary evacuations of mobile homes and low-lying areas, while Collier County has issued voluntary evacuations of Marco Island.
Brevard County officials have announced a mandatory evacuation order for residents living in Merritt Island and some low-lying areas along the Indian River Lagoon. There is a mandatory evacuation for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Flagler County. The county has called for voluntary evacuations for people living east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Additional evacuations are expected as the hurricane moves closer to Florida.