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Date of Issue: March 04, 2009

Magazine features Anna Maria Island

This two-page opening of a story about Anna Maria Island in the March issue of Southern Living magazine features the blue waters of the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria. Image Courtesy Southern Living

Anna Maria Island may be the land that time forgot, but of late, it’s been discovered by travel writers and the national print media.

The March issue of the magazine Southern Living has a four-page spread about the Island and its “laid back” old Florida lifestyle that is causing yet another overload of phone calls and e-mails at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and Island accommodations.

Chamber president Mary Ann Brockman said the response to the article began almost immediately after the magazine hit the newsstand in mid-February.

“We had 500 e-mails the other day just in the morning, and that’s not counting phone calls. I think this story is going to be like the USA Today story,” she said.

A USA Today travel writer did a feature on her Island vacation that ran in a November issue of the newspaper. Immediately following publication, the chamber was flooded with telephone calls and e-mails from people asking for information about vacationing on Anna Maria Island.

And the visits to the chamber Web site have also been coming from the Southern Living story. The day after the magazine was sent to subscribers on Feb. 19, the chamber’s Web site had 2,025 hits the next day.

“From what I’ve seen so far, this story is going to be really good for the Island,” Brockman said.

The story, written by Wanda McKinney and titled “Beach Magic,” opens with a two-page color picture of the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria and the blue waters of Tampa Bay.

McKinney wrote that she dreamed she had escaped to the perfect getaway, with beautiful beaches and palm trees and no high-rise condos.

When she awoke, she shook her head because, “Surely there was no such piece of paradise left,” she wrote. “Then I discovered Anna Maria Island.”

McKinney said when you reach the Island, “You’ve stepped into the Florida of decades ago,” but with new amenities to compliment the old charm.

A number of Island accommodations, locations and restaurants were mentioned in the article, including the Historic Bridge Street Pier and Bridge Street Jewelers in Bradenton Beach, the Waterfront Restaurant, Skinny’s Place, Ginny and Jane E’s at the Old IGA, the Pine Avenue General Store, the Tortuga Inn and the Sandbar Restaurant.

Anna Maria received considerable praise in the article, which noted the amenities for the visitor provided in the Pine Avenue business district and mentioned the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum and the Belle Haven cottage.

The story follows a number of other recent articles in national publications about the Island, and it’s the type of publicity that is priceless for the tourist industry.

“We seem to be getting quite well known,” Brockman said. “I think the article will give the season a good push. People who had been just considering a vacation here will now make up their minds.”

Manatee County Tourist Development Council member David Teitelbaum, who owns rental accommodations including Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds Resort and SeaSide Inn in Bradenton Beach, said the Southern Living article will be a definite boost for tourism the remainder of the season.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with people saying they read about us in the magazine,” he said.

“It’s incredible advertising for the Island,” he said.

If the chamber had to pay for a four-page color spread in the magazine, it would have cost more than $500,000, Teitelbaum said.

“People have read the story and seen what old Florida really is. And they are finding out that we are value for money,” he concluded.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Jessica Grace said the story was unsolicited, which is always the best type of advertising.

“It’s always great to see an unbiased opinion. I think the story accurately reflects what the Island is and what an Island vacation is. We are not Orlando, South Beach or Panama City, and we don’t want to be those destinations. We want to be Florida the way it used to be.”

Although Southern Living is primarily distributed in southern states, the magazine does have a national distribution and has 2.3 million subscribers, according to the its Web site.

In addition to Southern Living and USA Today, media such as TheNew York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times in the past several years have published favorable articles about an Anna Maria Island vacation.