LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Bradenton Area Convention Center saw nearly 7,500 people attend the It Works! Green Carpet event and convention at the end of July. The 7,500 attendees stayed three nights in area lodging and booked nearby restaurants with reservations.
Members of the Sarasota-Manatee Hotels Committee hope to attract similar conventions in the future.
"The convention center looked like something out of Las Vegas," said Executive Director Elliott Falcione of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau. "We're hoping to build on that type of convention."
Within the next week or so, Falcione said invitation-to-negotiate packets for the hotel portion of the Bradenton Area Convention Center should be ready to hit the marketplace.
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During Tuesday's meeting in Lakewood Ranch, the committee received progress reports from hotel representatives about ongoing renovations at area hotels and Falcione's office offered updates about Manatee County's third-quarter tourism statistics.
Laurie Pike, director of sales and marketing for MPH Hotels, said the outdoor area of the new Comfort Inn and Suites on Honore Avenue was popular enough for the hotel to triple the size and add a fire pit and barbecue grill. Jeannie Gomes, director of sales and marketing for the Ramada Inn Venice, said the Captiva Beach Resort is scheduled to do a second phase of renovations as soon as possible.
Other hotel representatives talked about replacing carpets and refurbishing parking lots for Florida's upcoming busy tourist season.
Though many of the hotel representatives came from sales or marketing departments, Rob Ferguson, chairman of the committee and director of sales for Kinsman Hotel Associates, said in an Aug. 5 email "we want to make sure we are including operations topics so we see more general managers and owners at our meetings."
Among its other objectives, the hotel committee "was established to govern as one group for political status when addressing issues that concern the well being of the hospital
The committee addressed the possibility of building a conference center in downtown Sarasota and the issues that go along with adding such amenities to boost tourism, including local residents' response.
"I think the average citizen wants all these visitors to be flown in on a little drone without a car and stay invisible the entire trip," said Sarasota County Commissioner Alan Maio. "That won't happen."
"It's all about educating," Falcione said. "It's amazing when you get someone who is a nonbeliever in visitation, you can turn them around."
Virginia Haley, executive director of Visit Sarasota, expanded on Falcione's point and said her office reaches out to community groups for the opportunity to speak.
"We are so proud of the diversity of our professional arts groups," Haley said. "Our professional ballet, theater, opera; all those groups report anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of their audience are visitors." Haley also said tourist traffic contributes to the variety of restaurants available in the area.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.