ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- TripAdvisor has named Anna Maria Island the No. 3 island in the United States, up a spot from last year's No. 4 ranking.
The rating is based on the second annual Traveler's Choice Island awards from the website that compiles ratings and recommendations from travelers.
The TripAdvisor ranking is incredibly important to tourism in Anna Maria, notes Elliott Falcione, executive director for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"TripAdvisor is really our biggest critic when it comes to visitation," Falcione said. "For them to rank Anna Maria with its character and Old Florida environment, it shows once again it's one of the top places to visit in the United States."
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The island will only get busier with the ranking as AMI beaches are getting a makeover in time for high season. A beach renourishment project stretching from 78th Street at Holmes Beach south to Bradenton Beach is in the process of widening the beach 125 to 150 feet.
Mary Ann Brockman, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, said a No. 4 ranking boosted island business last year.
"Take a ride out here, do it now, and then try to go back off the island at 4:30 and that will give you your answer," Brockman said, laughing, "It's huge. It's absolutely huge."
Hotels are busy, restaurants are packed and folks are buying wares from island merchants.
"It's phenomenal out here," she said. "It's really going to be a good season."
According to a TripAdvisor.com site poll, 72 percent of U.S. respondents plan on visiting an island in 2014. Marco Island topped the list, with Chincoteague Island, Va., coming in second. Key West was the only other Florida island to make the list at No. 10.
Marco Island's ranking translated into a No. 4 island in the world -- the only North American island on the list. Ambergris Caye in Belize was ranked the best island in the world.
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards are based on reviews and opinions from travelers using TripAdvisor. Island winners were specifically determined based on the quality and quantity of the most highly rated hotels, restaurants and attractions listed for each island on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period.
"They see the beauty of a special island in Florida," Falcione said. "We want to be No. 1 at some point."
Top 10 Islands in the U.S.:1. Marco Island, Florida2. Chincoteague Island, Virginia3. Anna Maria Island, Florida4. San Juan Island, Washington5. Maui, Hawaii6. Kauai, Hawaii7. Island of Hawaii, Hawaii8. Nantucket, Massachusetts9. Hilton Head, South Carolina10. Key West, Florida
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.