Tourism continues to rise

PALMETTO – For the seventh straight year, tourism is up on Anna Maria Island and the rest of Manatee County, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

In the first quarter of 2018 – the height of tourist season on the Island – visitors, expenditures, room rates and total economic impact were each up from 2017, according to a report released at the annual “Year in Review” event on Thursday, May 10 during National Tourism Week.

Visitors increased 4.9 percent to 233,400, spending $283 million, up 9.1 percent. Average room rates rose 1.7 percent to $203 a night. The total economic impact of tourism reached $447 million, up 9.1 percent from the first quarter in 2017. Occupancy rates did not increase, which the CVB attributes to the growth of accommodations.

Visitors, expenditures, employment and economic impact all increased in 2017 from the previous year, the county’s tourism consultant, Walter Klages, reported.

In 2017, countywide tourism generated $52.3 million in taxes, an increase of 5.2 percent, according to the report. Visitors exceeded 3.2 million, up 2 percent from 2016, producing an economic impact of $1.2 billion, an increase of 5.5 percent from 2016. Tourism-related employment opportunities were up 5.1 percent from 2016 to 26,600.

CVB Executive Director Elliott Falcione credited the increases in part to ongoing growth and diversification of accommodations and continued focus on sports and the arts.

Tourism awards

During National Tourism Week, the CVB presented its 2018 Champions in Tourism Awards.

The annual Tourism Ambassador Award was presented to Karen Riley-Love, a board member of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, where she is involved with tourism outreach initiatives.

Karen Riley-Love
The annual Tourism Ambassador Award was presented to Karen Riley-Love, a board member of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. – Submitted

She is a founding member of Friends of the DeSoto National Memorial, was a supervisor of the Florida Maritime Museum and has earned the designation of a Visit Florida Specialist by successfully completing programs such as Destination Weddings and Honeymoons.

The award honors an individual who represents the destination positively, engages in promoting and supporting area visitation and has provided the best possible visitor experience.

The Ed Hunzeker Hospitality Leadership Award, created in 2017 to honor its namesake and first recipient, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, was presented to Dr. Patrick Moreo.

Selected for exemplifying the leadership, vision and lasting impact reflected by Hunzeker, Dr. Moreo has served hospitality and tourism industries as an educator and administrator for more than 30 years. As the Dean of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership at the University of South Florida and a FRLA Sarasota-Bradenton Chapter board member, he gives his time to industry and community projects.

“Both 2018 recipients are true leaders: Dr. Moreo is committed to ensuring that the next generation of hospitality and tourism leaders are prepared to carry the torch and Karen Riley-Love works tirelessly to guarantee our visitors have a memorable experience that will bring them back time and time again,” Falcione said. “Both are the epitome of what an industry partner should be, and I am happy to publicly acknowledge and thank them both for their leadership and on-going support of our efforts and initiatives.”