SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
Judy Giovanelli, left, rental property manager with
Duncan Real Estate in Anna Maria, receives the Anna
Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Shining Star Award
last week from Chamber President Mary Ann Brockman.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
LONGBOAT KEY While tourism on Anna Maria Island
and Longboat Key is healthy, according to Evelyn Fine,
those in the business must focus on staying that way.
Fine, president of Mid-Florida Marketing and Research
Inc., spoke to tourist business owners during National
Tourism Week last Thursday at the Hilton Longboat Key
A statistics expert, Fine has crunched the numbers and
concluded that local tourism is well above average, with
Manatee County attracting 39 percent of its target market
to the area, and Sarasota County drawing 51 percent. An
average return is 20-25 percent, she said.
Still, several challenges remain, the largest being the
Hurricanes give the area an image problem, even though
it hasnt been directly hit in recent years, Fine
said. Rising gas prices also affect tourist plans, as
does the general economy, especially while theres
a war on, she added.
Fine suggested several strategies that motel owners, condominium
rental agents, restaurateurs and shop owners can use.
First, keep name, address, e-mail and telephone records
on your customers, she advised. Then send them an e-mail
or a postcard a few months after their visit to invite
Dont put merchandise or room rates on sale, Fine
said. Instead, offer "value-added" services,
such as gift certificates to a restaurant for a motel
guest, or a free item with a purchase at a shop.
Take advantage of co-op advertising, which lowers the
price for all the advertisers, she said, adding that even
the smallest ad will get some attention.
And use the Internet as much as visitors do, she said.
Place links to local chambers of commerce and convention
and visitors bureaus on your website, and post hours,
locations, contact information, photos, menus and anything
else you can think of to promote.
Larry White, executive director of the Bradenton Area
Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed with Fine.
Accommodations owners are the key, he said, advising them
to contact customers at least a couple of months in advance
of when they stayed the previous year.
"We need to get people here or retail will not survive,"
White said. "The finest customer youll ever
have is the one youve already got."