Red tide caused Manatee County to lose 17.5 percent in economic activity in August, according to a report by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
The number translates to a reduction of nearly $4.4 million in direct visitor spending and a $6.9 million economic impact deficit, according to the report.
More than 79 percent of vacation rental property owners interviewed reported that their reservations for the next three months have decreased compared to this time last year, and that September business continues to be impacted by red tide.
The report also describes in detail how visitors in major feeder markets perceive red tide in Manatee County, based on media coverage of the bloom in their locations.
From June 1 to Sept. 14, about 1,200 stories were published related to red tide and Manatee County, the report states, with most coverage in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market (289 mentions) and more than 70 national media mentions.
Coverage peaked on Aug. 13 following the publication of an Associated Press article headlined “Devastating toxic algae bloom plagues Florida’s Gulf Coast,” according to the report, which notes other major media reporting on the bloom, including CNN, The New York Times, ABC News, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Another spike in coverage occurred Aug. 22-23 with more than 100 stories, many related to an Associated Press story headlined, “Florida red tide: Wildlife advocate stunned by toll on fish,” the report states.
By Sept. 1, media interest in red tide had waned significantly. Since then, roughly 100 mentions have been tallied, with about 75 percent running in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market, according to the report. Only four national stories ran from Sept. 1-14.
The decrease in stories since Sept. 1 suggests that visitors perceive that red tide has receded, and affected areas are by and large “back to normal,” according to the report.
“Provided conditions remain the same or improve, little red tide coverage is expected, though ‘Coast is Clear’ initiatives and messaging in the upcoming months will aid in efforts to steer this conversation,” the report states.
United Kingdom market
The red tide on the west coast of Florida hit the UK news mostly during August, the report states. The impact on marine life and beach conditions were the main issues covered, and it was widely reported that the algae is a naturally-occurring phenomenon.
During August, a small number of UK tour operators contacted the CVB for an update on red tide conditions, and some said that visitors were cancelling or changing their vacation dates, as the beach was a main factor in their holiday plans, according to the report.
From Sept. 4-14, the CVB noted no UK media coverage of red tide. “Unless the situation worsens, we don’t anticipate further coverage and we don’t anticipate it being a lasting memory in people’s minds,” the report states.
Central Europe market
The CVB’s German office asked Central European tour operators how the red tide on Florida’s Gulf coast influenced their clients’ travel to Florida.
Top tour operators that sell the Bradenton Area said they had a few customer complaints from guests in the destination who wanted to change their booking to a different location, but the majority said there was not a large negative impact on bookings, the report stated. Many said that they have more customers planning to visit the area compared to last year.
Visitors expressed more concerns about hurricane activity since last year’s Hurricane Irma, according to the report.
The CVB launched marketing promotions this week aimed at attracting couples to Manatee County.
“Relax & Connect” touts romantic beach accommodations, shopping, a spa visit and a gourmet meal on Anna Maria Island for a few days or a week.
“A great night for a date night” offers a romantic evening for two at Pier 22 in Bradenton, a sunset cruise with Kathleen D. Charters and a stop at The Doctor’s Office on Anna Maria Island for cocktails.
“Popping the question in paradise” suggests five locations as engagement destinations, from restaurants to preserves.
“Six ridiculously romantic places to say ‘I do’ ” sells six locations in the area as wedding destinations, from elegant to offbeat.