Eco-tourism operators meet, strategize
SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
Karen Fraley, left,
Bend Nature Tours, talks with Captain Michael Haley at an Eco-Tourism
Workshop in Cortez she organized last week through the Bradenton
Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
CORTEZ – Hoteliers, fishing captains, restaurant owners and heritage attractions operators are working together to develop travel marketing packages designed to attract eco-tourists to Manatee County.
"The idea is to identify potential partners to provide packages for meals, lodging and nature and heritage-related activities," said Karen Fraley, Eco-Tourism representative for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, who organized last week’s workshop at the Bayside Banquet Hall in Cortez.
Business cards, brochures and brainstorming ideas were traded as tourism operators got to know each other at the first-time event.
Eco-tourism is increasingly popular with visitors to the area, according to Robyn Price of the Bradenton Holiday Inn, which was recently certified as a green lodging establishment based on several criteria, including cleaning products used by the housekeeping service.
"We’ve already had our first reservation resulting from going green," she said.
Several creative ideas were floated, including inviting corporations that are planning team-building exercises to cruise on Aquarian Quest’s "floating classroom," which normally takes school-age students on educational sailing adventures.
The Parrot Inn on Cortez Road has kitchenettes where visitors who come to fish can enjoy cooking their catches, representative Kim Jenkins said. Since many other accommodations don’t have cooking facilities, the hotel is a natural to pair in packages with fishing charter services.
Kimberly Turner, of Arbor Terrace RV Resort, discussed designating one day a month for guests to board a bus and visit the Manatee County Agricultural Museum and the Palmetto Historical Park with respective representatives Diane Ingram and Mandy Polson.
Many tourism operators were interested to learn that visitors don’t have to travel to the Everglades for a Florida airboat ride; Myakka Safari and Wildlife Tours is hours closer to Manatee County.
Travel packages resulting from the workshop discussions will be featured on the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site, www.FloridasGulfIslands.com, and in other marketing promotions, Fraley said. The next workshop is tentatively planned for October.