HomeMarch tourism numbers soar

March tourism numbers soar

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – March tourism numbers are up from last year in all three Island cities, significantly so in the City of Anna Maria.

Each month, the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office reports how much income the county’s 5% tourist tax produces. The tax is collected from owners of accommodations rented for six months or less who charge the tax to their renters, who are mostly tourists. The amount of the tourist tax taken in each month is a gauge of how many people are coming to the Island in a given month, and for March, that was a big number.

While Bradenton Beach was up 1% compared to 2023 and Holmes Beach was up an impressive 19% during the same period, Anna Maria showed a staggering increase of 58% over March 2023.

The Sun reached out to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Elliott Falcione to make sense of the significant increase.

“I’m not sure without further research, but what might have happened in the City of Anna Maria is more of the homes went into the short-term rental pool,” Falcione said. “I’d be curious if there’s any real estate transactions from homeowners that used that as their homestead then made it a short-term rental and had a management firm operate it.”

Falcione also said his department does not promote spring break, saying the Island is busy enough and doesn’t need further promotion during the busiest time of year. He says there has to be a balance between the huge influx of tourists during the busy spring season and the quality of life for the residents who live here. This attitude falls in line with other, more popular, Florida spring break destinations such as Miami and Panama City, who have essentially told spring breakers to find somewhere else to party. Miami officials went so far as to publicly “break up” with spring breakers, saying the relationship is over and they need to move on. No one in Manatee County has gone as far as that to echo that sentiment, since AMI has not been a “party” destination with the riots and violent crime Miami and Panama City have experienced. Nonetheless, the number of people coming is plenty, and the CVB sees no reason for advertising the Island as a spring break destination.

Falcione said the tourist tax is a very good thing for Island residents, because it benefits the residents without any money coming out of their pockets.

The tax is used for things such as boat ramps, piers, beach parking lots, the new water taxi, and perhaps most importantly, 20% goes to beach renourishment.

As far as how to alleviate some of the problems with traffic and congestion, Falcione says a lot of it comes down to parking. He says if there was a solution to the limited parking on the Island, traffic would flow more smoothly and residents would be able to travel during the busy spring season without spending a frustrating amount of time stuck in traffic.

While many Island residents are opposed to a proposed parking garage at Manatee Beach, Falcione says he supports it.

“The parking garage would need to be designed to not look like a parking garage, and would need to be designed to integrate into the look of the Island,” Falcione said. “Once people coming to the Island realized that they could just come to the Island on Manatee Avenue and pull right into a place to park, then what it does is get people off Gulf Drive. Right now the traffic isn’t just the demand for the beaches, it’s cars going up and down Gulf Drive searching for a parking spot and causing traffic problems.”

Falcione says he doesn’t believe the garage will bring more tourists, but rather mitigate traffic on the Island. When asked if he was worried about voicing his support for the controversial parking garage, Falcione said, “I am who I am and I speak from the heart. We all drive cars, and if I’m going from point A to point B, and I want to park that car as fast as I can and know there’s a parking spot as soon as I get on the Island, I’m going to take it. Most importantly, it gets my car off the road and I’m not a part of traffic. I’m not that smart, to me it just seems to be common sense.”

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