From 2000-10, Anna Maria Island was fairly immune from college students on spring break.
Deb Meihls, marketing director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Center, said she and her predecessors did not seek the spring break market as the area is considered a family destination.
“We’re not for the spring break crowd,” Meihls said. “We’re looking for families or groups who want peace and quiet and to enjoy our beaches,” Meihls said.
She added that the usual spring break destinations are Panama City, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach or Miami Beach.
But beginning in spring 2012, a funny thing happened on the way to marketing Anna Maria Island as a family destination.
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn thinks college students are showing up in larger numbers than in the past.
A possible reason is that some owners and accommodation managers advertise island homes that accommodate 14-20 people and it attracts people willing to share their vacation.
Last year, Holmes Beach police were called on a loud noise complaint and found 16 college students renting a house for the week.
The students told officers they were members of a university singing group and were practicing in the pool when the complaint was made. The group agreed to stop singing after being informed of the noise curfew.
Asked why they picked Anna Maria Island and not Panama City, one of the women said it was because the cost was about $200 each. Pretty cheap, she said, compared to a hotel in Panama City.
And the island rental was advertised as a quiet place for a spring vacation.
SueLynn said last spring was the first time she had seen large numbers of college students on the beaches in Anna Maria.
“I would ask them why they weren’t in Panama City and they would say because it’s peaceful and quiet on the island and they found a great rental on the Internet.”
The mayor said she can only hope that owners and agents of vacation rentals will enforce the best practices policies that seem now to be working to limit the number of noise and nuisance complaints in the city after 10 p.m.
The best practices list, prepared last fall, informs tenants of local ordinances, such as the noise limit after 10 p.m.
This year’s spring break is fairly divided in March, according to a national website on spring break times for colleges and universities.
Most Florida public universities and high schools will be on spring break in March.
Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said most area students come to the beach during the day, but head back to the mainland in the afternoon.
This year, Easter is March 31, a weekend usually filled with visitors to Anna Maria Island.
But if visitors are just now planning vacations, they might be out of luck on the island. A number of rental agents and managers of vacation properties say they are booked solid from March 11 to the end of the month.
Brockman said the chamber is always ready to help someone find an accommodation, but the chamber is not encouraging the college crowd to rent a multi-bedroom home.
“We are a family destination for peace and quiet,” she said.