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Date of Issue: January 20, 2010

Island tourism up 20 percent in December

Confirming the opinion of many accommodation owners and rental agents on Anna Maria Island, tourism to the Island was up nearly 20 percent in December, compared with the same month in 2008.

According to figures just released by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, occupancy of Island accommodations in December 2009 was at 47.2 percent of units surveyed, compared with 39.6 percent occupancy for December 2008.

Occupancy of accommodations in the entire BACVB reporting area also rose, climbing from 47.2 percent in December 2008 to 50.4 percent in December 2009, an 8 percent rise.

The increase was not unexpected, said Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman.

“We knew it was a great holiday time for members. No one was complaining and there was a lot of traffic and people walking about,” Brockman said.

 “And it hasn’t slowed down as much as expected. Tourism usually drops the first two weeks of January, but not much this year. It’s been gangbusters and I’m confident the trend will continue through the season.”

It should, according to some accommodation rental agents.

“I’m up 20 percent for advance bookings for February and March compared with last year,” said Stephanie Bell of Fran Maxon Real Estate in Anna Maria.

Likewise for Jason Sato at Sato Real Estate.

“Reservations for the season are looking good. We’re way ahead of last year,” he said.

David Teitelbaum, owner of three resorts in Bradenton Beach and a member of the Tourist Development Council of Manatee County, predicted a strong season for the tourism industry.

“We’ve had some extremely good publicity about our Island recently. We’ve been discovered and people can get value for money when they come here,” he said.

Teitelbaum agreed that the winter season should be outstanding for the Island.

“Advance reservations are way ahead of last year. I think we’re looking at an unprecedented season, possibly the best ever. I’m extremely optimistic, especially if we have our normal weather.”

The BACVB news wasn’t all rosy, however.

Overall occupancy of accommodations surveyed ended 2009 at 56.7 percent, a 1.5 percent drop from the December 2008 figure of 57.6 percent.

Anna Maria Island, however, ended 2009 with a 57.4 percent occupancy level, up 2 percent from the 55.7 percent reported for 2008.

The BACVB surveys only 26 percent of the accommodations on the Island. Some tourist industry officials have indicated the low number of units considered in the survey could skewer the tourism occupancy figures.

The BACVB surveys 33 percent of available rooms on the mainland, 27 percent of Longboat Key rooms and 30 percent countywide.