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Date of Issue: April 20, 2006

Report says Island tourism still down

While it would be hard to tell from all the vehicular traffic and beachgoers on Anna Maria Island the past two months, the latest occupancy figures from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau indicate tourism to the Island is considerably down from last year.

The CVB reported that March occupancy of the Island accommodations surveyed was 77.3 percent, a far cry from the reported 94.3 percent occupancy rate for March 2005.

At the same time, however, the CVB said occupancy of mainland accommodations for March 2006 was 91.4 percent, just a few points off the 94.6 percent for the same month last year.

Occupancy on Longboat Key slipped as well, falling from 87.4 percent for March 2005 to 80.2 percent for March 2006.

Overall, occupancy of all accommodations in the Bradenton area was at 83.4 percent for March 2006, about 10 percentage points below the March 2005 average of 93.1, the CVB reported.

The argument that room rates on Anna Maria Island are hurting tourism doesn’t seem to stand up when compared with room rates in Sarasota.

The average daily room rate on Anna Maria for March 2006 was $161.90, a 7-percent increase from last year at the same time. Sarasota, however, reported an average daily room rate of $190.52 for March 2005, although 2006 figures are not yet available. Sarasota’s average daily rate for January 2006 was $168.96 compared with the Bradenton area’s $135.59 average for the same month.

At the same time, however, occupancy of Sarasota accommodations climbed from 52 percent in January 2005 to 67 percent in January 2006.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Ann Brockman has previously indicated that a large number of Sarasota’s winter visitors had been coming to Anna Maria Island for a day visit, as indicated by the sign-in sheets at the chamber office in Holmes Beach.

Tourism industry officials have said previously that red tide, pipes on the beach for the renourishment project and warm weather up north all contributed to the tourism decline.

On the plus side, a late Easter in the winter season should boost April occupancy figures, CVB officials have said.

While stay-over tourism to Anna Maria Island might be down for the first three months of 2006, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine, a 20-year veteran of the force, said traffic this year was the worst he’s ever seen.

"Of course, I say that every year, but this year was definitely the most traffic," he said.