BRADENTON BEACH – With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, flights back to 100% capacity, people vaccinated and school coming to an end, Anna Maria Island could potentially see a record number of visitors for the Memorial Day holiday. With many service industry businesses already being understaffed, owners and managers are doing their best to prepare.
According to Research Data Services, which tracks monthly visitor statistics to the Island, there is every reason to believe the number of visitors will likely surpass not only 2020, but pre-COVID-19 as well. Data also shows that the length of time people are staying has continued to increase. This is also supported by data from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ). Southwest Airlines has added new cities such as Columbus, Houston and Nashville, and continues to increase the number of daily flights. SRQ is currently the fastest-growing airport in America, and a large number of those passengers are headed to the beach.
“We’ve been sold out for Memorial Day since the beginning of April,” said Dawn Hollar, of the Anna Maria Island Dream Inn. “It was pretty crazy during spring break in March, especially with a limited staff. We’re expecting more of the same for Memorial Day.” Dream Inn, like many other businesses on the Island, continues to work with a smaller-than-normal crew.
It may come as a surprise, but according to Hollar, Memorial Day and Valentine’s Day are the two busiest holidays of the year.
“Regardless of being sold out and short on staff, we’re still able to handle it. Still ready for everybody to come in, still here with a smile on our face, with clean rooms and a ready staff,” she said.
Wanting to give guests the best experience possible is a sentiment shared by Island business owners and managers. While at times stressful due to the challenges they’re facing from the pandemic, owners expressed optimism that things are returning to as close to normal as possible.
“We’re seeing people who were here in February coming back in June; they’re trying to catch up on lost time,” said Kathy Wooten, General Manager of Queens Gate Resort in Bradenton Beach.
“June, as a general rule, brings families after the kids get out of school, but this year is over the top,” Wooten said. “We are sold out well into July and have been for weeks. We broke records in March, broke records in April, and are about to break our record for May. There’s a frenzy about Anna Maria. I’ve been here 30 years and never seen anything like it.”
As with any busy holiday week on the Island, expect an increased police presence, parking rules being strictly enforced, and much higher-than-average traffic volume.