For a few years now, many residents in our community have had questions regarding the manner by which Manatee County government promotes the Bradenton Area to prospective tourists. Many in our community also believe our marketplace brand only focuses on Anna Maria Island. With that, I feel it is time to give you all a "state of our business" in tourism.
First let me say for the past three years, our destination brand has focused on our countywide assets, and not just Anna Maria Island. Quite candidly, there was a time when our best marketable assets were only Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. For many years, the urban core had limited amenities to attract visitors (with the exception of Pittsburgh Pirates spring training baseball), and Lakewood Ranch did not exist, therefore, the islands gave us our strongest return on investment but today we now have an entire county that has market appeal.
For those who are unaware, the county collects a tourist development tax that is part of a Florida state statute that applies to visitor short-term lodging for six months or less.
Five pennies on the dollar is collected, and is restricted to the use of projects and activities that directly benefit tourism. We use those monies for beach renourishment, maintaining tourism-related infrastructure, and to market our destination to prospective tourists.
Some examples of recent initiatives the county is authorized to use tourist tax proceeds include the McKechnie Field renovation, the Bradenton Area Convention Center renovation, Bradenton Beach pier renovation, The Manatee Performing Arts Center, and bicycle racks and changing stations on Anna Maria Island. It is important to know the tourist tax law restricts the use of these proceeds as supplemental revenues for the county or cities to provide traditional municipal services or infrastructure.
The state statute was established to promote communities to prospective tourists who would feed the state's economy resulting in
sales tax generation, business development, and real estate sales.
I believe it is important for all of us to realize tourism is our No.1 industry, an industry fuels our economy, including job sustainability, real estate transactions, sales tax generation, and supports our hospitality industry.
For every $1 the CVB spends on marketing, $200 comes back to our local economy.
The aforementioned no doubt enhances the quality of life for our residents, so it is important we all work hard as a community to welcome and support our visitors.
I am also aware many residents believe we mainly showcase the beaches through our advertising campaigns.
For the past few years after we launched our new destination brand in the marketplace, we have been able to consistently showcase many community assets countywide that appeal to our prospective visitors.
With the renaissance in the urban core (Bradenton and Palmetto), and the evolution of Lakewood Ranch, we have been able to develop and enhance our niche markets to include agritourism, culinary, ecology, and arts and culture.
This well-balanced marketing approach allows us to diversify our product to perspective tourists, and brings new dollars for the mainland community that helps stimulate ongoing product development in our overall county.
We hope you take the time to visit our website atbradentongulfislands.com so you can get a good understanding of how we showcase our beautiful community to prospective visitors.
We also hope you become an ambassador for tourism so we as residents can consistently and sincerely cater to our visitors in hopes that they continue to come back, and hopefully at some point, make the Bradenton area their home.
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177 ext. 222.