Manatee County tourism surges in usually weak September

November 16, 2013 

Great news for Manatee County's tourism industry. September visitation continues to rise. The latest figures from the Manatee County Tax Collector, released this month, show bed tax revenue increased 15 percent over September 2012.

For the once sleepy month at the peak of hurricane season -- and worst of the year in this key tourism indicator -- the trend is clear. The county's hotel, resorts and other accommodations are attracing more guests with bed tax receipts up a considerable 44 percent since 2009.

In exact revenue figures, this September raked in a shade under $450,000 compared with its 2012 counterpart at $382,000. That's a nice addition to the account that contributes to county parks, beach maintenance and tourism marketing. (Let's be clear on this once again: State law requires that bed tax revenue be spent only on tourism-related projects and nothing else.)

The island community of Holmes Beach usually tops the list of revenue generators, but this September brought a surprise: unincorporated Manatee County brought in the most.

We can only surmise our burgeoning ecotourism and sports markets are paying bigger and bigger dividends, luring more visitors away from the beaches.

With a host of major sporting events on the horizon -- including the 2017 World Rowing Championships -- the impact on unincorporated Manatee County figures to rise more.

Now comes word Friday that Nathan Benderson Park is trying to lure Olympic Pentathlon World Cup events. Manatee County bed tax revenue, $50,000 worth, is being spent on the effort -- an investment that would surely pay big dividends for the tourism industry and thus return the investment back into the county tourism fund.

Cultural tourism figures to improve, too, with the Manatee Performing Arts Center as one of the two new key attractions alongside Riverwalk. The new Hampton Inn & Suites will be another, housing guests to center performances as well as visitors to the South Florida Museum, ArtCenter Manatee and Village of the Arts.

A world-class exhibition should be a boon as well. The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition opens today in the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium. On loan from the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, Italy, Bradenton scored big as one of only three U.S. cities to be granted access to the 60 hand-crafted re-creations of the artist's designs.

Since the display will remain here until mid-April, we expect a lot of additional visitors. And even higher bed tax revenue.

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