Extended stay: Never-ending tourist season

Time was in past years on Anna Maria Island when motels and restaurants would close for repairs or vacation in the summer.

Rental agents took time off, and some businesses closed for a month.

Not this year.

The island tourist season “doesn’t appear to be ending soon and is still going strong,” according to Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman.

“This summer season has definitely been off the charts,” she said. “I was at the Red Barn in Bradenton and even heard visitors there talking about going to the island.”

Brockman said the chamber and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau did cooperative advertising in several states in the Midwest and the Atlantic coast, and it’s paying off.

“We’ve had a lot of visitors from Indiana, Virginia and Tennessee. It’s the season that hasn’t ended,” she said.

Brockman’s visit to the Red Barn Flea Market paid off for the chamber.

“They’ve agreed to stock our brochures. They get so many people there, especially in winter,” she said.

Brockman said she’s had no complaints from any member that business is off this summer.

One happy chamber member is David Teitelbaum, owner of five motels in Bradenton Beach, including the Tortuga Inn and Tropic Isle.

“We’ve had a lot of weddings this summer, and more coming in August,” he said. “We’re not really slowing down until after Labor Day, although occupancy does drop some after schools reopen later this month.”

Most Florida public schools, including universities, will be back in session by Aug. 22, according to the Florida Department of Education website. The start of school always brings a slight drop in visitors, Teitelbaum said.

“We have some rooms available, especially the last two weeks of August. But we still have a lot of Europeans coming and Labor Day should be sold out,” he added.

Teitelbaum said the website TripAdvisor.com listed Anna Maria Island as the No. 4 destination for families in 2013, and this summer is proof enough for the ranking.

“Families love the old Florida look of our island,” he said.

At Anna Maria Island Accommodations in Anna Maria, Mike Brinson says it’s “one of the best summers we’ve ever had.”

Brinson said the only slowdown on their books appears after Labor Day weekend. This year, Labor Day is Sept. 1.

At Cedar Cove Resort in Holmes Beach — where James Taylor, Tommy Lee and Lee Greenwood have stayed in the past — owner Eric Cairns said the summer season has been great, and reservations have exceeded their 2013 numbers.

“I can sum up the season in three words, ‘fabulous, fabulous, fabulous,’” he said.

“There are no longer separate visitor seasons on the island. It’s been one great season,” Cairns said.

Last year, 2013 was a record year for visitors to Anna Maria Island, according to the BACVB.

Although September is a bit slower for accommodations, Teitelbaum said he’s already taking reservations for mid-October, November and Thanksgiving.

“My advice for anyone coming here for Thanksgiving is to make a reservation early.”

For many holidays, staff at his resorts scramble to accommodate last minute walk-ins.

If Teitelbaum is correct, island residents can only hope for less impact from tourism from early September to mid-to-late October.

“By the last two weeks in October, we’ll see winter residents and visitors start to arrive,” Brockman said.

The island is seeing a new sort of tourist season, she said, one that never ends.

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