County approves $500,000 more for red tide beach cleanup

BRADENTON – Manatee County commissioners unanimously voted on Sept. 11 to take another $500,000 from tourist tax funds and use it to remove dead fish killed by red tide from local beaches.

Red tide is causing concern for people with Florida vacation plans, and some are considering cancelling their reservations, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The bureau reports an increase in complaints filed against businesses offering vacation rentals during the current red tide bloom, which reached Anna Maria Island on Aug. 3.

Consumer complaints allege issues with receiving refunds following cancellation, and businesses not disclosing potential red tide issues.

The bureau recommends knowing your consumer rights, beginning with understanding the terms and conditions of your contract for a vacation rental, or the refund policy for a hotel reservation.

Establishments are not required under Florida law to issue refunds for prepaid reservations, according to the bureau.

Communication with the business is key, the bureau advises; talk with the management to resolve your issues. Most businesses want to keep you as a customer and will work with you to find a reasonable solution.

If you’re having a problem with your reservation visit www.bbb.org/howtocomplain for more information.

The vote raises the total tourist tax funds allowed for beach maintenance to $1,250,000 a year.

“We don’t know how long this red tide event is going to go on,” Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), told commissioners.

“We are standing down on marketing right now in certain areas,” he said. “We believe if we were putting our brand out there, our ROI (return on investment) would be next to nothing and we could be deceiving the marketplace.”

Marketing funds saved during the red tide outbreak will be used when the crisis is over to double down on the area’s tourism message, countering negative publicity in the (UK) Daily Mail and other publications, he said, adding that a $1 million contingency fund is also available to be used for marketing after a disaster, including hurricanes and red tide.

County commissioners amended the Tourist Development Plan in 2014 to allow $100,000 per year in tourist tax funds for maintenance of county-owned beaches. The following year, commissioners increased the funding to $750,000. Last month, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted unanimously to recommend the commission approve the additional $500,000.

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