Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen takes her place on the dais of the Manatee County Tourism Development Council at its June 18 meeting. Peelen was appointed by the county commission to represent Anna Maria Island, replacing long-time TDC member-Holmes Beach Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Tourism to the Bradenton area increased 11.6 percent in May 2012 compared with the same month last year, reported Walter Klages, head of Research Data Services, the firm hired by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to follow tourism and prepare its monthly and quarterly reports.
Speaking at the June 18 Manatee County Tourism Development Council, Klages said the “state of tourism” for the BACVB area is quite good.
“Up to here, we have done very well,” he said.
But Klages cautioned TDC and BACVB members and everyone in the industry to “look at where the world is going.”
Worldwide, income is not keeping up with output, he said. The BACVB must be careful to position itself “in the wave of the future economy.”
He also said it’s more important to look at economic spending and residual expenditures than the number of visitors to the BACVB area.
For May 2012, the total economic impact of visitor spending was $35.1 million, up 15.4 percent from the May 2011 figure of $30.4 million.
Through the first five months of 2012, the total economic impact of visitors to the BACVB area is $341 million, a 13.2 percent jump from the $301 million recorded for the same period in 2011.
“This has been a very good time for us,” Klages said.
He also said pricing in the area is a key issue. The average daily rate for an accommodation in the BACVB area is up just 2.1 percent for 2012 when compared with the same five-month period in 2011.
“So there is a lot of wiggle room with the average daily rate,” which is still lower than other Florida destinations, he said.
And there is room and opportunity to grow, Klages observed.
A recent survey by RDS determined a new hotel in Lakewood Ranch, across the county line in Sarasota, would be feasible, he said. Additionally, a major international airline is considering flights to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
The bottom line, Klages said, is the tourism industry can’t sit still and rest on its laurels.
“Tourism has structural changes over time and the community is growing.” The BACVB and TDC must keep up with those changes.
For the year to date, Klages reported visitors to the area are up 10.3 percent when compared with the first five months of 2011.
Klages reported 251,400 visitors January-May 2012, compared with 228,000 in the same period in 2011.
The Internet and social networks have become huge mediums for information on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, and for making vacation reservations, Klages said.
Of those who made reservations to the area in 2012, 57.2 percent used the Internet, while 89.1 percent used the Internet to obtain information about the area.
For AMI and LBK, the average base budget per visitor was $607.37, with an average of $1,579 budgeted for a group vacation.
Attributes that visitors ascribe to the Island and Longboat Key are, in order of preference, beautiful beaches; good food and restaurants; clear, blue water; complete relaxation; safe destination; and reasonably priced lodging.
The satisfaction level of a vacation to the area was 97 percent for May 2012, while 94.4 percent said they planned a return visit. Ninety-two percent said they would recommend the Island and Longboat Key to friends as a vacation destination.
Of the 36,600 visitors in May this year, more than 66 percent had previously visited the Island or Longboat Key.