Manatee County sees 7th year of increase in tourism

Hurricane Irma didn’t scare visitors away from Manatee County in 2017.

In 2017, tourism rose 2 percent over 2016, up to 3,160,700 visitors to the county, according to Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He reviewed tourism in the area during a news conference May 10 in Palmetto.

Lodging visitors rose 4 percent and total economic impact from tourists rose 5.5 percent to $1,245,461,300.

Full-time jobs associated with tourism rose 5.1 percent from 2016 to 2017, accounting for 26,600 jobs in the county.

The majority of tourists visit from within the state, Falcione said, with the top markets being Tampa and Orlando.

Following behind Florida visitors are visitors from New York City, Chicago and Pittsburgh, Falcione said.

In addition, visitation from continental Europe rose nearly 9 percent in 2017. Falcione said visitors from Europe stay longer, spend more money and buy more property than their domestic counterparts.

Sports events and sports training also are bringing tourists to the area in droves, he added.

Events such as the World Rowing Championships and institutions such as IMG Academy bring visitors who come for events or education and then return or relocate for the sunshine and beaches.

Falcione, during the news conference to mark tourism week in the county, suggested local officials should prioritize expanding the hospitality industry and training new hospitality employees.

In five years, tourism-related jobs in Manatee rose nearly 30 percent, he said.

During the presentation, he also advised people to take advantage of the good times.

“Everybody’s flourishing. Let’s prepare for days of adversity. It’s going to come, it’s going to happen,” he said.