PALMETTO — Manatee County gained more visitors, tourists spent more money and the total economic impact of tourism spiked for the first nine months of this year.
Year-to-date tourism results were favorable for Manatee County in light of the BP oil spill and an unstable economy.
Visitors to Manatee County increased by 3 percent to 370,400, direct expenditures increased by $5.1 million to $255.5 million, and total economic impact of tourism for the area increased by $7.8 million to $403.3 million through September over the same period in 2009.
“It’s amazing thing how well we have done,” said Walter Klages, president of The Klages Group, a research firm that tracks local tourism for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Manatee County saw a 10.6 percent boost in visitors from the Southeast from January to September.
However, European visitors declined 10 percent.
Klages attributed the decline to unsettled exchange rate issues as well as the BP oil spill.
In the third quarter from July to September, European visitors to Manatee declined by 4.4 percent.
“We clearly have been affected by the spill,” Klages said. “Unfortunately, people still believe there could still be some impact from the spill and that has an impact on travel plans. The problem is the perception.”
The Manatee Convention Center and Crosley Estate also saw year-to-date increases in total revenue through September.
Rachel Harrison, facilities manager for the convention center, said there was a 3 percent increase in total revenues for the convention center and Crosley Estate combined.
The Manatee Convention Center collected $712,721 in year-to-date revenue, up from $695,006 through September 2009. The Crosley Estate collected $598,624 in year-to-date revenue, up from $583,777.
Harrison said the increase at Crosley was due to the greater number of rentals and a 10 percent commission collected from caterers. Increased revenue at the convention center was attributed to lowering expenses for the year and an increase in event rentals.
“This is good news, especially in the economy we’re in right now,” Harrison said.