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‘Best ever’ tourism expected in February, March

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Beachgoers flock to Manatee Public Beach in mid-January for sun and sea, as well as food and refreshments from the nearby Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Visitors planning a winter vacation on Anna Maria Island who have not made a reservation may have face difficulties  come February.

That’s because many owners, managers and agents in the tourist-rental market say they are full from mid-February to the end of March.

Mark Davis of Harrington House Bed & Breakfast, 5626 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, said he has a few units available in February and March, but the openings are limited by surrounding reservations. Many Harrington House guests are repeat customers who stay one or two weeks, even longer, he said.

“I would say anyone thinking of an island vacation should start calling or emailing now,” Davis said. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook. If you’re just looking for a one or two-day stay, that’s going to be difficult, but possible if the dates are flexible.”

The same is true at AMI Accommodations, 315 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

Even with nearly 300 rentals managed by the company, “there are only a few places left and most of those are in early February,” said staff member Rebecca Barnett.”

“March is sold out and we’re getting emails and phone calls all day long from people looking for a family rental,” Barnett added.

One possibility for a room rental for a day or two is the Rod & Reel Motel, 877 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria.

A reservations manager said the motel is “fairly open” in early February, but only a few rooms remain available from then to the end of March.

If people are flexible about when they can come, and how long they stay, something can probably be arranged, R&R manager Janet Hoffman said.

David Teitelbaum, owner of the Tropic Isle, Tortuga, Seaside and Tradewinds motels in Bradenton Beach, was equally upbeat.

“Last season was our second best the past 10 years and we’re well ahead of that pace. This could be the best season ever for the island,” he said.

He noted that after Easter on March 31, availability gradually improves. After April 15, income tax filing day, the number of vacancies increases.

“But we’re going to have two great months of a season,” he said.

Similar expectations for full occupancy from mid-February through March were reported by Cedar Cove and White Sands motels, both in Holmes Beach.

Eric Cairns, owner of Cedar Cove, 2710 Gulf Drive, said he tries to accommodate all walk-in traffic or someone calling who needs a room right away. If he can’t find something at Cedar Cove, he’ll call other resorts or check with the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, which keeps a list of available rooms.

Rental agents and accommodation managers agree that cooperation among them is a key to good business.

“We all try to help each other,” said Jeff Geary of White Sands Resort, 6504 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

“Visitors will get a place to stay on the island even if we have to pitch a tent and bring in cots,” Cairns said, tongue-in-cheek.

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