Tourism increases on Anna Maria Island and in Manatee County are evident from the rise in resort tax collections. After all, it’s vacationers who fund future tourist development.
For 27 of the past 28 months, the increase in resort tax collections by the Manatee County Tax Collector have been about double the survey results for tourism increases. And collections for July continue on a rising tide.
The resort tax office reported $756,920 was collected in July, a 16.3 percent gain from the $650,734 reported in July 2012. The resort tax is the 5 percent collected by Manatee County on rentals of six months or less.
That July resort tax collections should put the island’s tourism survey for the month — although not yet available — at an 8 percent increase, a figure with which many accommodation owners and managers agree.
“We had one of our best summers ever,” said Eric Cairns, owner of Cedar Cove Resort, 2710 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.
“It definitely exceeded our expectations and we were busy from June through August. After Labor Day, things begin to die down, but we’re expecting fall visitors to start arriving in October and November,” Cairns said.
David Teitelbaum, owner of five resort properties in Bradenton Beach, had much the same perspective.
“Definitely one of our best summers ever. We were booked full most weeks and it was a delight to see so many happy visitors. We definitely did better than anticipated,” he said.
Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce vice president Deb Wing said she’s heard only positive comments about the summer season.
“Nobody was complaining they didn’t have tenants. Judging from the comments I heard, this might have been the best summer ever for visitors,” Wing said.
At Anna Maria Island Vacation Rentals, 315 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, agent Rebecca Barnett said she would put business the past summer among the “top three we’ve ever had, if not the best.”
On the retail side of tourism, many store owners said the summer season was good, at least as good as last summer.
“I had a good summer,” said Laura Shely, owner of Tide & Moon Jewelry, 315 Pine Ave., Anna Maria. “It was certainly as good as last summer, which also was very good.”
At Mister Roberts Resort Wear, 5330 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, co-owners and sisters Signa Bouziane and Linda Clayton agreed that June and August were extremely good, but rainy weather in July kept some customers from shopping.
“It was certainly a good summer. I just wish we didn’t have all that rain,” Bouziane said.
On the dining scene, Ed Chiles, owner of three restaurants, the Sandbar in Anna Maria, the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach and the Mar Vista Dockside Pub on Longboat Key, said business at the Sandbar “set a record for the three summer months.”
He credited improvements in the dining area and bar, as well as improved promotion of the island as a summer destination.
“Plus, we’ve been getting great publicity from the marketing plans done by the convention and visitor’s bureau,” he added.
The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates under the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and provides monthly tourism surveys, told the TDC at its August meeting that overall tourism for 2013 was 6.5 percent ahead of last year.
Resort tax collections already are ahead of the past fiscal year’s record pace by $742,836 with two months of collections remaining. With $7.98 million already collected for 2012-13 and two months to go, collection officials expect the resort tax fund to surpass last year’s $8.05 million record.
The TDC budgets spending for the resort development tax with approval from county commissioners.
“It all means we’re having a great year for visitors,” said Wing.