The discussions centered on dollars and red tide.
The Center of Anna Maria Island in Anna Maria served for the first time Aug. 20 as the host site for a Manatee County Tourist Development Council meeting.
The TDC makes recommendations to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners on the use of tourist tax revenues.
Eric Cairns, owner of Cedar Cove Resort and Cottages in Bradenton Beach, attended his first meeting as a member of the TDC, filling an owner/operator hotel/motel slot. He was introduced to the council by Elliott Falcione, executive direction of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
When asked about red tide and how the BACVB was coping, Falcione was stoic.
“You have to know what you can control and what you can’t. My first week in this job, it was the middle of the BP oil spill. If I survived that, I can survive anything,” he said.
Before business got underway, a special presentation was made to David Teitelbaum of Bradenton Beach, a longtime member who recently retired his seat on the TDC.
Falcione praised Teitelbaum for his commitment to tourism, his years of public service and his support for historic preservation.
As County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who chairs the TDC, handed her longtime friend a bronze sculpture of a manatee, Falcione remarked, “We thank you for all you have done and look forward to working with you and your expertise for many years to come.”
Teitelbaum, a local developer, real estate broker and owner of Anna Maria Island Resorts, four motel operations in Bradenton Beach, retired earlier this year due to health issues.
He beamed throughout the presentation and acknowledged his applause.
In meeting business, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker provided an update on BP Oil proceeds from the 2010 Gulf oil disaster and how the county is using the money. The county earmarked the money for 16 uses, all tied to environmental issues.
“It was a more difficult path to take with the proceeds,” Hunsicker said. “But it has enabled us to do more.”
The county is using BP money to hire people to assist with removing dead fish from canals and backwaters. Three collection vessels were to be staffed by drivers and teams of two to collect and dispose of dead sea life in residential and commercial areas not included in an ongoing beach cleanup.
Hunsicker and others took a helicopter ride Aug. 17 to pinpoint areas to clean.
“We are going to vacuum the carpet,” Hunsicker said. “But there will still be dust in it. This is a strange dance we are doing with Mother Nature.”
The TDC approved Falcione’s recommendation to add $500,000 from its reserves to the $500,000 already set aside by the county for the cleanup.
Hunsicker also announced a red tide hotline, which operates daily at 941-749-3547.
Airport traffic up, tourist dollars increase, too
Mark Stuckey, senior vice-president and chief operating officer of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, reported replacement of loading bridges for passengers, as well as the addition of a visitor’s center and shade coverings to parking lots and rental car areas.
Airport traffic was up 23 percent in June and 30 percent in July over last year. Stuckey said he expects to see rapid growth — including a 20 percent increase in airline seats by year’s end.”
Walter Klages, of Data Research Services of Tampa, said Manatee County continued its climb in tourist numbers through June.
Klages reported a $82,760,300 total economic impact to Manatee County from tourism in June with more than 569,000 visitors pushing a growth rate of 4 percent in June 2017.
Lodging occupancy fell 1.6 percent due to an increase of 3 percent in lodging units, Klages said. The average traveler to county destinations was 47 years old with a medium income of $123,796 and spent six nights. First-time visits to the area were up 2.1 percent.
Falcione requested $110,000 from the TDC budget be allocated to sports and recreational events. Sixteen additional tournaments, ranging from senior softball at G.T. Bray Park in Bradenton to “Baseball Factory” at Pirate City in east Bradenton have been booked.
“These events fill gaps in our season,” Falcione said, “and bring visitors to our doorstep year-round. It’s a win-win.”
TDC members in attendance included Cairns, Whitmore, Jack Rynerson, Dale Sconyers, Vernon DeSears, Anna Maria Commissioner Doug Copeland and Jiten Patel. Ed Chiles was out of town, but listened to the proceedings by phone.
The next TDC meeting will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the county commission chambers, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.