Thanks to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, Anna Maria is another step closer to paying for a new city pier.
In a meeting Dec. 4, TDC members reviewed and approved a $1.5 million plan to send to the county board for ultimate approval, reviewed tourism in the county and discussed the holiday season.
The TDC voted unanimously to approve a deal with the city of Anna Maria on the Anna Maria City Pier rebuild. The deal will now be sent to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners for approval.
If approved, the county will match up to $1.5 million to rebuild the pier structure, but not the restaurant. State law dictates that the TDC cannot fund private businesses.
Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which promotes tourism in Manatee County for the TDC, said the board is excited to sign the deal with the city to repair the structure, which is more than a century old.
“The pier is iconic,” he said. “It’s important that we partner with the city to renovate it.”
Falcione added that the pier also offers the TDC an opportunity to accommodate multimodal transportation — a water taxi.
The TDC also agreed to leave the decision to the city on materials used to build the new pier.
County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, representing the county on the TDC, told Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy the city has “done a good job” handling the urgency of replacing the pier.
Murphy told commissioners the city also anticipates funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state.
TDC member Ed Chiles, owner of two restaurants on Anna Maria Island and one on Longboat Key, said the project is ideal for TDC funding.
“We take a lot of heat up here for the money we spend. Here in two months, this organization unanimously supported a project that needed to be done for years,” he said.
“Thank you for your support,” Murphy told the TDC. “I greatly appreciate it and our city greatly appreciates it.”
“Congratulations to Anna Maria, and we have your back,” Whitmore responded.
September tourism figures
Walter Klages, a data scientist and president of Research Data Services, presented the TDC with tourism figures demonstrating that visitors and spending were up in the month of September.
Visits were up 8 percent as compared to September 2016, and visitors spent 14.7 percent more compared to the same period last year.
Klages said the increase could partially be attributed to a “migration” of south Florida residents fleeing the brunt of Hurricane Irma.
However, Klages said the increase also could be attributed to the World Rowing Championships, which were held Sept. 24-Oct. 1 in Sarasota.
Hotels and motels in Manatee had 2.9 percent increased occupancy through the month, but the surge was not distributed evenly through the county.
On the mainland and on Longboat Key, lodging occupancy rose 8 percent and 3.9 percent respectively in September as compared to September 2016, but fell by almost 9 percent on Anna Maria Island.
Mainland-Longboat Key room revenue grew more than 14 percent, but fell 5.2 percent on the island.
Officials issued a mandatory evacuation on Anna Maria Island ahead of Hurricane Irma, which likely affected room rates.
In addition, Klages reported a 3.9 percent drop in European tourism and a 10 percent drop in Canadian tourism as a result of press related to the hurricane.
However, tourism from the northeast surged almost 20 percent compared to last year, while tourism from the Midwest was up 10.6 percent.
Florida’s holiday advert
BACVB marketing specialist Michelle Stewart discussed with the TDC the impact of a Florida holiday advertisement for the program “How to Do Florida” that aired in recent weeks across the country.
The hourlong feature, titled “Sand, Sun and Holiday Fun,” is set in the Bradenton area. It introduces viewers to vacation activities and holiday experiences available in the BACVB marketing area.
The episode, which began airing in November, reached more than 30 million households in the United States, according to Stewart.
Stewart said the episode reached almost 2.5 million households in the Houston and Atlanta areas.
Other areas that aired the episode included Phoenix, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Orlando.
In addition, the show aired on two stations in the St. Petersburg/Tampa region, reaching almost 2 million households.
“With temperatures in the 70s, it’s less about sweaters and mittens and more about flip-flops and board shorts,” an advertisement for the episode informs viewers, panning over shots of the beach, including the shoreline of Anna Maria Island.
“Tag along with us to the warm coastal waters of the Sunshine State for some sand, sun and holiday fun,” the advertisement narrator says at the end.
Stewart said the program targeted key market areas in the United States that could boost tourism to Manatee County.
The episode aired in the Bradenton area Dec. 10 on CBS affiliate stations.