New branding won’t change Island brand

Plans to rebrand Manatee County as a tourist destination and change the name of the convention center from the Manatee Convention Center to the Bradenton Area Convention Center will be discussed at the 9 a.m. Aug. 20 meeting of the Manatee County Tourism Development Council at Holmes Beach City Hall.

But Islanders can relax. There are no plans to change the destination brand of Anna Maria Island as old-Florida — or “real Florida,” as TDC member David Teitelbaum likes to say.

Carol Whitmore, who serves as the TDC chairperson, said the rebranding is for the benefit of Manatee County and the convention center.

“When you look up Manatee County on the Internet, you didn’t find any information on tourism,” she said.

The idea of rebranding is to get people who don’t know about Manatee County to find it easier on the Web and learn about activities in the area.

It also is for visitors who already know about the island to learn about other attractions and to introduce trade shows and organizations to Manatee County, Whitmore said.

Under a master plan, a major hotel would be built adjacent to the convention center to handle large numbers of guests.

In addition, the rebranding is to highlight the sporting opportunities in the area.

A recent rowing event drew more than 10,000 people for four days to University Park in east Manatee County and the attendees filled the available hotel and motel rooms in the area, Whitmore said.

With a number of soccer fields in east Manatee County, Whitmore said the area should be a perfect draw for a major soccer tournament.

“The whole point of rebranding is not to get away from our island roots, but to show visitors there are other attractions in our area,” she said.

With a first-class hotel, easy Web access and a marketing team targeting convention and sporting events, rebranding can show the world there is more than a beach in the area.

“The island is the engine that drives our economic machine,” Whitmore said. “We’re just looking at ways to help people find other attractions here and make it easier for people to find us.”

Newly elected TDC member and Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said her concerns about rebranding were eased after a briefing from Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione.

“I was actually quite relieved in hearing the plans. I look forward to learning more,” Peelen said.

The BACVB plans an unveiling of the new brand at 8 a.m. Sept. 12 at the convention center. The BACVB will showcase the convention center plans at 9 a.m.

The convention center is at 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.

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