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Date of Issue: December 23, 2009

‘No rooms’ at the holiday inns

Visitors to Anna Maria Island arriving this week without a reservation may have to scramble to find lodging.

Only a few Island accommodation owners and managers surveyed last week reported any vacancies for the Christmas-New Year’s week, and most expected those to be gone by Dec. 24.

“We’re basically sold out,” said David Teitelbaum, owner of the Tradewinds, SeaSide and Tortuga resorts in Bradenton Beach and a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

“We have a few rooms left,” he said last week, but he anticipated that those would be taken by Dec. 23.

“If someone arrives this week without a reservation, we might have one or two rooms. If not, we’ll call around for them and try to help them,” Teitelbaum said.

“The best advice is to book early.”

Advance reservations at his three resorts for the holidays are ahead of last year, he said, but even more encouraging is that reservations for the February-March period are doing well.

“This has been a good booking period for us and everybody. I think it speaks well for the Island,”

Jason Sato of Sato Real Estate in Anna Maria agreed.

“Our vacation rentals are all taken. Christmas week is full. It’s great. It’s going to be a busy week on the Island,” Sato said.

“This year is way ahead of last year’s reservation pace for Christmas,” he added.

Sato also suggested that visitors should book reservations early, but there are always some walk-ins who show up on the Island the day before Christmas hoping for a room.

“People are always e-mailing us at the last minute looking for a room. We’ll try to help them,” he said.

“I think this speaks well for the Island. In spite of the economic woes, the Island is doing very well. It’s definitely a place to be for Christmas and the season,” Sato concluded.

There were a few vacation rentals left at Gulf-Bay Realty in Holmes Beach last week, but vacancies were being gobbled up faster than Christmas turkey.

Property manager Zita Kollar said she had several two-bedroom units, but advance reservations had been brisk.

“All I can say is give us a call and we might still have something, but advance reservations have been good. The holiday is looking good,” Kollar said.

At Fran Maxon Real Estate in Anna Maria, Stephanie Bell said she had a few large vacation rental properties and a few small properties, but not much in-between.

“When we get a last-minute caller or walk-in next week, we’ll do our best,” she said.

Christmas reservations this year are better than Bell expected, and she has also seen had an upswing in reservations for the February-March period.

At Mike Norman Real Estate, Holmes Beach, property manager Marianne Norman-Ellis said all the units near the water have already been booked for the Christmas season.

“We have a few rentals left that are still on the Island, just not near the Gulf,” Norman-Ellis said last week.

“But reservations have been coming fast and we could be sold out in a few days. We’ve been real busy. We’re ahead of last Christmas already.”

A full Island could bode well for the Island’s restaurant industry, said Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach and the Mar Vista on Longboat Key.

“If we have good weather, we’ll be packed and I’m sure everyone with outdoor dining will also be full. We’re praying for good weather and I think it’s going to be a great Christmas for everyone,” Chiles said.

While property managers and accommodation owners stand ready to help late-arriving visitors this week, anyone arriving without a reservation might have better luck going directly to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce office, located in the Shoppes at Tidemark, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

The chamber keeps a list of all members with vacancies, said president Mary Ann Brockman.

“We’ve got a few members with vacancies and we’ll be here until noon Dec. 24. People can also e-mail us at info@amichamber.org,” she said.

“We’ll take care of them,” Brockman said.

Island tourism up in November

Occupancy of Anna Maria Island accommodation units rose 4.6 percent in November compared with the same month last year, according to figures just released by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It was the third straight month occupancy of Island accommodations rose from its 2008 level.

At the same time, however, occupancy of Longboat Key accommodation units fell 5.5 percent, the second straight month occupancy in that market declined.

Overall, occupancy levels rose 2.6 percent for the BACVB market.

November occupancy of Island accommodations was reported as 43.2 percent against 41.3 percent for November 2008. Longboat Key occupancy for November of this year was 45.9 compared with 48.6 percent for the same month last year.

The BACVB has also changed its Web-site name from www.myfloridagulfislands.com to www.annamariaisland-longboatkey.com. The site has the same look as the old name and contains the same information.