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Chamber exec: People angry over negative tourism tone

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Ann Brockman says the recent wave of negative talk about tourism has visitors angry.

Brockman attended an Oct. 28 congestion committee meeting in Holmes Beach and when asked what the recent trend in tourism is, Brockman fired back a question of her own.

“Do you want the truth?” she asked.

Brockman said visitors to the island are well aware of the negative tone public officials have taken in recent months toward tourism.

“A lot of Europeans are extremely angry about the talk that they don’t want tourists here,” said Brockman. “They say they will take their dollars elsewhere. A lot of people in Bradenton also are angry.”

Brockman said she receives phone calls from Manatee County residents who ask her, “Do you think you are so special out there? You can’t even get to the mainland without coming into Bradenton first.”

She said a “really bad” spin has been placed on the island and she is receiving a lot of calls from people who want to remind island officials that the beaches belong to Manatee County. They pay county taxes and the beaches are just as much theirs, Brockman said.

Blaming “daytrippers” has alienated some mainland residents, as was evident in a recent protest on the Palma Sola Causeway where Bradenton residents sold “daytripper” bumper stickers.

Island officials have used that term, particularly in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, while addressing subjects that are tourist-related, however, the term “daytripper” was coined long ago and was not created in a negative light.

The term “daytripper” is used in books about the history of Anna Maria Island that defined those who lived close to the island and who would come for a day at the beach or for a meal at one of the early lodging facilities.

Easing traffic congestion, parking and infrastructure concerns have been a primary point of discussion islandwide. Whether it has been an attack on tourists and daytrippers is speculative, but Brockman said that doesn’t matter once perception becomes someone’s reality.

“So I’m trying to combat that,” she said.

Public officials have stemmed the use of “daytrippers,” and Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti asked his commission to no longer use the term.

Brockman said avoiding the term with a negative tone has helped.

She doesn’t believe the recent headlines of island officials trying to address the impact of tourism will hurt the coming tourist season, which typically begins in late February.

She’s not so sure about the future, however, “because it’s all picked up by the media and it goes viral. In the years to come, I think it will have an impact on tourism.”

Committee member Bob Johnson wanted to know if tourism appeared to be growing “before the fire storm in the local papers.”

Brockman said the overwhelming majority of responses from visitors have been positive, but some have complained about the bathrooms at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, which visitors say, “are a little gross.”

She said the bathrooms at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach get a better response.

The committee asked if Brockman understood the frustration of some residents.

“We can’t be knocking the tourists,” said Brockman. “That’s our dollar. It keeps businesses alive. It’s the tourists that drive our economy. We don’t have anything else. We don’t have commerce here.”

Brockman said that as a resident, of course, she wants to see residents happy, but she blames the increase in rental homes as the problem.

When asked if she would define the recent concerns about tourism as an explosive or gradual increase, Brockman said she would define it as gradual.

“We get a lot of good publicity because we are the laid-back island and we want to stay that way,” she said. “We don’t want to be Longboat Key or Siesta Key. We want to be Anna Maria, but change is going to happen. It’s more important in what you do with it.”

Brockman said she is seeing more young families beginning to come to the island, especially Europeans, who stay for a week to recharge and relax before continuing their vacations somewhere more fast paced.

Brockman was critical of recent proposals of paid parking at the Manatee Public Beach.

Brockman said Manatee County residents are telling her they already pay taxes for the beach and shouldn’t have to pay to park there.

She was reminded that the paid parking proposal didn’t come from the congestion committee, but Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, a committee member, defended the proposal.

“People here pay taxes, but when they go downtown, they have to pay for parking and sales tax,” said Tokajer.

Brockman said it wasn’t the same thing, but Tokajer said it was.

“You are paying for convenience to be close to downtown Bradenton,” said Tokajer. “It’s the same reason for the suggestion here. You can pay for the convenience or, if you don’t want to pay, then that’s the reason we are trying for the park-and-ride spots.”

Brockman said she wished she had the solution, but does not.

Committee chair Carol Soustek said everyone is working together for the benefit of all.

“We want the trip to be better for them, too,” said Soustek. “We don’t want them stuck in endless traffic either. So we want their trip to be good and we want our residents not to feel overwhelmed. That’s the purpose of all of this.”

13 Responses to Chamber exec: People angry over negative tourism tone

  1. wayne ormsby says:

    We too are angry with the local government officials who are constantly looking to screw visitors and outside owners who contribute a SIGNIFICANT amount of money to the local economy. However, they forget that fact constantly, and since we do not have a representative to voice our point of view, the insanity continues. How about this sarcastic idea: Just leave an empty 55 gallon barrel at the end of the bridge so visitors can drive by and toss money into it and drive away? The mental patients are running the asylum in Anna Maria Island and they better wake up soon. Signed, Wayne and Debbie Ormsby, Silver Creek, NY. Renters on 71st Street for three months each year.

  2. Sheryl T says:

    It is a question of balance. Ours are small communities and the loss of even a few residents and/or long-stay visitors has a substantial effect on neighborhoods and on the sense of community. Perhaps a portion of the advertising dollars could be spent on lettng the world know that AMI is a wonderful place to live. Families with children keep a community vibrant. We have an excellent island school and community center. If we comtinue along our current path, I fear that residents will become further isolated in a sea of rental homes, without community.

  3. Roland Farley says:

    My wife and I are annual visitors to Anna Maria Island and have been so for about 12 years. We live in probably the most popular tourist area in the UK, ie Cornwall, so we understand some of the concerns and the dangers of not maintaining a balance between the local resident community and tourism. One of the main attractions of AMI for us is the laid back feel and a warm, welcoming sense of community. Prior to our visit in September/October there was a growing sense that some people didn’t really feel too well disposed to us, but I suspect that was the consequence of some ill chosen words and for some a real fear that the future of their home community is threatened one way or another. The financial contribution of tourism to the community is very important but so are the elements of what makes a community, ie families, neighbours, jobs, community organisations, sports teams, church congregations. Striking this balance is enormously difficult for such a lovely place as Anna Maria but I wish you well and hope that people will be able to strike a more positive note when coming together and the language of discussion is constructive.

    • Alistair Swadel says:

      I agree entirely with Mr Farley .We also live and work in beautiful part of England namely Poole in Dorset ,but as we are a large community we can absorb vast amount of visitors without upsetting the locals.Anna Maria problem, if you can call it that, is once you have been smitten like we have with its beauty and friendliness wild horses would not keep us away.see you again next year.

  4. Duke miller says:

    If, as Ms. Brockman relates, foreign visitors and residents of mainland communities are so angry about our communities’ efforts to minimize the environmental impact of overcrowding, why do we continue to hear of record numbers of guests being reached each month? People who object to our efforts don’t understand we’re trying to preserve the reasons they and all of us were attracted here in the first place. Maybe Ms. Brockman should tone down her reaction to the relatively few noisy voices and understand that these complainers don’t get it; that taking their dollars elsewhere is a good thing, making more room for those who appreciate what is here. And maybe the readers of her comments need to remind themselves that job number one for the director of the chamber is not balance, as suggested in previous comments, rather it is to pack as many into our tiny space as possible.

    • Ben Hardin says:

      Or DuLaurence, maybe you should move if you do not like living on a vacation island. You and your fans that are opposed to tourists, business, and fun do not own the island. There are many of us on the island that welcome visitors, whether for the day, week, or month.

  5. Sandra McDonald says:

    I am glad some one is addressing the term DAYTRIPPERS. I was very hurt by that remark!!! I hadn’t heard it before. I am a winter resident living in Manatee Co.for the past 20 years. Paying my taxes just like many county residents. I “AM” a daytripper. I come to the beach about three days a week early in the morning. I never come on the week-end nor on any holidays. I figure I live here and can come during the week. I also come a few times during the winter months to the Moose and to visit a few favorite restaurants out there. I have noticed the last few years because of advertizing the overcrowding and lack of parking and I realize what a problem it has become. I also know something has to be done about it. Please take the mainland residents into consideration when making any decisions because we will still be here when the tourists have come and gone. Hot spots don’t last forever. People move on!!!!!!! Maybe you can give us stickers to put on our cars so we are exempt from paid parking or paying to even get on the island. Just a suggestion. I am unable to get up and down on the bus so that is not an option for me to ride the free trolly.

  6. Ken (UK) says:

    I agree with some of the comments above especially the fellow UK visitor, we have visited AMI 8 years running but over the last year the tone used in the press has been quite ‘off putting’ i feel that tourist are no longer welcome. Next year i will be spending my month off the island and visiting as one of the ‘day trippers’ but contrary to popular belief i will observe the parking laws and will not leave trash scattered around.Well at least you have one less tourist to worry about.

    • bonnerj says:

      Don’t kill the messenger. The newspaper has an obligation to report the actions of elected officials. But we find often they speak before they think. One traffic jam set them off this time, and as a 38-year resident, I think this too will pass… the traffic clears and the air clears when politicians move on. — Bonner

  7. Andy Hope says:

    Most locals don’t like tourist and daytrippers. I wish they would go elsewhere. Its bad enough half the U.S. comes here in the winter but when we see tourists leaving their trash, peeing on the beach and just generally being loud assholes, LEAVE!!!!!!! Tampa has nice beaches,,go there

    • bonnerj says:

      Speak for yourself. I’ve lived on AMI for 38 years and I welcome everyone to enjoy what I know as paradise. State studies show the majority of visitors come to Florida to visit friends and family, so would you have us turn away anyone who dares to visit YOU? — Bonner

    • Malte says:

      Andy, I disagree – we have only returned to Germany last Sunday and AMI is clean and without trash – but maybe that is because we’d rent places on the northern part of the island therefore not going to the ‘public’ beaches anyway.

      AMI is beautiful, the business owners are very nice people – even to tourists, we’ll be back soon. Happy to discuss f2f,
      Malte

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