|By Christine Hawes, The Bradenton Herald,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 16, 2011--BRADENTON -- While the sky seemed close to falling on the economy nationwide this summer, Manatee County stood out as a bright spot, attracting more tourists who generated a greater economic impact than last year, according to the county's tourism researcher.
The number of tourists increased by more than 8 percent from July 2010 to July 2011, with 52,300 visitors making their way to Manatee County last month, Walter Klages from Research Data Services Inc. told the county's Tourist Development Council on Monday. The economic impact of those visitors increased more than 13 percent, from about $43.8 million in July 2010 to almost $50 million last month, Klages said.
For the year to date, tourist traffic has increased about 4.3 percent over last year -- from 266,300 to 275,500 -- and the economic impact of tourism has increased 5.5 percent, from about $370.5 million to almost $395 million.
"This is a really good report, particularly in view of all the horrible things going on," Klages said, referring to national trends that include a lagging gross domestic product and soft consumer spending. "All things looked at, it's been a good summer season. We remain not insulated, but very fortunate."
July also marks the sixth straight month that the Sarasota-Bradenton area's hotels have shown both increased occupancy and increased "average daily rate" over last year. Klages told the council that the increase in average daily rate is especially noteworthy because it shows "there is more control over our rates."
European visitors dominated much of the council's discussion, even though Klages said they represented only about 10 percent of the tourists he had documented. Klages said that while European tourists may not be proclaiming Southwest Florida as their main destination, they do tend to "drift up here" from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
"Your destination has the one thing they're truly looking for," Klages told the group. "And what they're finding in your destination, beyond the beaches, is a quaintness. They're finding a 'non-Florida' Florida."
Council member David Teitelbaum chose another way to describe Southwest Florida's appeal compared to more commercial areas of Florida.
"I see it more as a real Florida," Teitelbaum said. "It's become plastic, in many other places. We're not plastic."
Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at (941) 745-7081.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.
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