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Date of Issue: March 04, 2009

Survey: Island beaches, Anna Maria City Pier No. 1

The Anna Maria City Pier is still the top natural attraction in Manatee County for visitors enjoying a vacation in the area.

And going to the beach is still a visitor’s favorite description of the Manatee area, according to a recent study conducted by Research Data Services Inc. for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The latest study covered the three-month period between Sept. 1, 2008, and Nov. 30, 2008, and was added to previous data gathered by RDS that covered March 2008 to August 2008.

In the most recent study, 95.5 percent of visitors said going to “beautiful beaches” was the best description for the area, while sunning on the beach was the No. 2 choice. Good food and restaurants rated a 62.3 percent response, earning the No. 5 spot on the attributes list.

Dining out, however, was the top-rated activity for visitors during the reporting period with a 92.6 percent rating, edging the beach, which gained a 92.3 percent vote.

The Anna Maria City Pier was the top natural attraction for visitors, outside of shopping at St. Armands Circle in Sarasota and the Prime Outlet Mall in Ellenton.

The Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria, which ranked No. 2 in the previous survey, fell to No. 4 as a favored attraction during the September-November period, behind “other Tampa Bay attractions” at No. 2 and the Red Barn Flea Market at No. 3.

 Mote Marine and the Ringling Museum were sixth and seventh respectively on the attractions list, behind “Orlando theme parks.” The Powel Crosley Mansion did not make the top 10 list.

RDS said 80,800 visitors came to the Bradenton area during the three-month survey period and contributed an economic impact of $73.9 million. Combined with the data gathered between March and August, the total economic impact for the nine-month survey period was $295.5 million, with the average visitor to the area spending $915 per day and staying 9.4 days.

On a yearly basis, the total economic impact from tourism to the Island and the Bradenton area would be approximately $395 million.

And visitors to the Island must be pleased with their vacation, as 86.2 percent said they would plan a return trip and 93.7 percent said they would recommend the Island to their friends and relatives.

Among all vacationers who responded, the total satisfaction level with the Island and the Bradenton area was 96.4 percent.

The survey results came as no surprise to Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman.

“We’ve always known the Island and the beaches are what draws people here for a vacation. It's no secret anymore. All the advertising targets the Island and we’ve had some great publicity recently in the national media.”

Brockman said the chamber and all those involved in tourism can’t rest on their laurels.

“I hope we can make their vacation so great that 100 percent of first-time visitors will return,” she said.

 Brockman added that the survey should ensure continued support for Island tourism from the Manatee County board of commissioners.

“The economic impact of our beaches and beach attractions is tremendous. Not just what people spend on the Island, but what they spend on the mainland before and after they visit the Island. We're a destination that’s being discovered.”

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford noted that the top two local attractions in the survey that do not involve shopping were both in Anna Maria.

“It’s no surprise to see that people want to come to our city. All the brochures on tourism show Bean Point and the Island beaches. And the city pier is just a slice of old Florida that you can't find anywhere else,” she said.

“Coming on the heels of the article in Southern Living, that really featured Anna Maria, this really complements our city. I hope this survey will help convince people that, even though Anna Maria is the smallest accommodation market of the three Island cities, we provide an incredible quality experience for the visitor,” Barford concluded.

Anna Maria City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who heads up a committee studying a possible boardwalk at the city pier, said the survey confirms that the pier is an integral part of the tourist experience.

“I think it’s wonderful to have two such popular attractions in our city,” she said.

“Anna Maria is the Florida that you don’t find in Orlando, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Marco Island. This is how Florida used to be.”