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Tourism report glows with rise of visitors, spending

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Just about every Anna Maria Island resident could have told Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau director Elliott Falcione that tourism to the island was up in 2012.

“We live here and we knew this past winter season was one of the busiest ever, probably the best ever,” said Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn.

Falcione, however, made it official May 8 at the annual BACVB year-in-review luncheon at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

In a glowing report about tourism in 2012, Falcione reported 2,975,500 visitors came to the Bradenton area that year, an increase of 4 percent from 2011.

Falcione reported direct expenditures by visitors in 2012 hit $534,977,000, a gain of 10.5 percent from 2011.

Breaking down the data, Falcione said expenditures by visitors at commercial lodging locations were $364.5 million, up 12.5 percent from 2011.

Falcione said the total economic impact of tourism to the county was $844.9 million, a climb of 10.5 percent from 2011.

The unseen economic impact, he added, is that “every dollar spent by the county (promoting tourism) generates $202.50 in direct visitor spending,” Falcione said.

Falcione and BACVB assistant director Deb Meihls attributed the growth to increased international visitors, the introduction of a new destination brand, continued growth in sports marketing and diversification of the marketplace and enhanced partner relationships.

“We’re very pleased with our numbers from 2012 and the growth we saw in tourism,” said Meihls.

“Now, we’re looking forward to what’s coming for the Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key area this year and next. We’ll be able to further showcase world-class sports opportunities, shining an entirely new light on our area and reaching out to an even larger audience,” Meihls said in her presentation.

And 2013 tourism is on pace to better the numbers of 2012, Falcione observed. Tourism to the area through the first three months of the year already is up 7.5 percent from the same period in 2012.

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