Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of the Anna Maria Island winter tourist season.
Judging by the influx of advance reservations at a number of Island accommodations, it should be a busy and thankful week, owners and managers in the tourism industry predicted.
At the Cedar Cove Resort in Holmes Beach, owner Eric Cairns said advance reservations for the Thanksgiving week were “off the charts.”
Even better news is that quite a few visitors have already booked a reservation for Thanksgiving 2012.
“I’ve been here 12 years and I can’t believe it. That’s never happened before,” Cairns said.
“It seems like everyone is coming this week. We have quite a number of Europeans here and many people plan to cook in their unit on Thanksgiving.”
While he does have a few open nights left, Cairns predicted those would likely be gone by Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.
There are always a few walk-ins Thanksgiving week and Cairns said if the resort fills up, he’ll work to find an accommodation for any late arrivals.
“We have about six other places we work with, or we call the chamber and see what’s available,” he concluded.
Chamber members with rooms available Thanksgiving weekend usually report them to the chamber on Monday or Tuesday preceding Thanksgiving. Quite a few visitors call or visit the chamber looking for a room, said chamber administrative assistant Deb Wing.
But calls have been few this year, Wing said.
“I haven’t had anybody call to say they’ve got a lot of empty rooms,” Wing said last week. She said she’d have a better idea of available rooms by Nov. 22.
But there might not be many open rooms.
David Teitelbaum, owner of the Tradewinds, Seaside and Tortuga resorts in Bradenton Beach, said advance reservations for the week are “excellent.”
He expected to be fully booked by Thanksgiving Day. “It’s a great start for the season,” he said.
But there always will be a few people who decide to come at the last minute. Teitelbaum said he also tries to find something for the walk-in traffic, even if it’s not at one of his resorts.
“We’ll find them something,” he promised.
Likewise, said Jeff Geary of the White Sands Resort in Holmes Beach.
“We’re pretty busy this week. We have one single left for this weekend. If it’s gone when a walk-in arrives, we’ll call around to help them.”
Even vacation rental properties are having a solid Thanksgiving week of requests and reservations.
Jesse Brisson of Gulf-Bay Real Estate said reservations are “normal for Thanksgiving.” That means families can still pick their dates for the week, but rentals are going fast.
“We don’t require a one-week minimum during Thanksgiving and we have a lot of guests visiting family in the area. There are always a lot of last-minute walk-ins to help,” Brisson said.
The Harrington House Bed & Breakfast in Holmes Beach expects to be full this weekend as many regular Thanksgiving vacationers are returning, said owner Mark Davis.
There are a few open days this weekend, but they traditionally go quickly in the days before Thanksgiving, Davis said.
The news from the accommodation industry for Thanksgiving appears to be nothing but good, said Wing.
“It looks like it’s going to be a great week. It should be a very good start for the season,” she said.
Chamber helps find rooms
During busy holiday periods, such as the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, keeps a list of members that have accommodation vacancies.
Chamber administrator Deb Wing said anyone arriving on Anna Maria Island for the weekend who can’t find an accommodation can call the chamber at 941-778-1541, or visit the chamber’s website at www.annamariaislandchamber.org.
Each accommodation member has a link on the website that provides up-to-date information on room availability.