LOOKING AHEAD: Tourism

 

LOOKING AHEAD: Tourism

 

Date: January 3, 2013
by: Alex Mahadevan | News Editor

 
 

 

Sarasota County lost the John Deere convention in 2012.

Despite losing the event to Orlando, the county managed about 62,400 visitors to the area in October 2012.

That’s an 8% jump from the previous year, according to research cited by the local destination marketing organization Visit Sarasota County, and occupancy grew 7% in the same period.

But, the organization’s director of marketing and sales, Anne Zavorskas, forecasts a 3% increase in the number of visitors in paid lodging and a 10% boost in visitor spending.

Zavorskas outlined strategies, including the addition of a German office, the organization would use to reach the goal during a partners meeting on Siesta.

“They’re not rolling in money, but they are spending,” Zavorskas said.


But, financial trouble in Germany, whose residents made up nearly a third of European tourists in the 2012 fiscal year, could have a negative impact on tourism.

“There’s just a fiscal growth problem, and that’s the issue there,” Zavorskas said.

Oxford Economics, an economic consulting firm, forecasts with a combined 55% probability three negative scenarios in 2013, including the U.S. falling off the fiscal cliff, default by a country in the Eurozone or a commercial property crash in China.

“I think you still have some concerns in terms of spending and travel, and there’s tremendous uncertainty involving the so-called fiscal cliff,” said Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley in a phone interview with the Pelican Press.

The firm banks 45% confidence that the global economy will gradually recover, according to the Visit Sarasota County presentation.

“Consumers are loosening their belts and spending, but they’re still cautious about it,” Zavorskas said.
Bed-tax collections on Siesta Key, a statistic used by analysts to measure tourism, hit record highs for most of the 2012 fiscal year, which ended in October.

Lodging occupancy in the county grew 4% in the most recent fiscal year compared with 2011, and the average daily rate for rentals jumped 5% in the same period, according to the Visit Sarasota County presentation.

“What really is the bright shining star is the travel industry,” Zavorskas said.

Visit Sarasota County expects a positive year in the hospitality industry. The real-estate industry on Siesta Key is also getting stronger going into 2013.

New investments
Siesta property owner Chris Brown, owner of the Hub Baja Grill and the Beach Club, bought the Ocean Boulevard building that houses Used Book Heaven Dec. 18.

“It’s a strategic investment,” Brown said in a phone interview. “The market is just right.”

Siesta Realtor Dudley Carson said in a December interview residential real-estate prices haven’t caught up to demand for properties on the island, which fed the 10% jump in condominium sales through Dec. 9.

Buyers purchased more than 10 vacant lots on Siesta in 2012, including a $4.4 million property on the 4100 block of Higel Avenue, according to records from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s website.

The Higel Avenue sale was the priciest purchase on the Key of the year and was seven times the price of when it was last sold in 1997.

New home construction, another economic indicator of a healthy real estate industry, is continuing into 2013.

Sarasota Attorney William Merrill will represent the owners of two lots on north Beach Road in a Jan. 9 request to Sarasota County commissioners to build homes past the county’s coastal construction restriction line.

And Siesta architect Mark Smith has been designing another two homes on the island.

Gerdes Construction, the firm collaborating with Smith on his projects, is currently working on a multi-family building on the 600 block of Beach Road.

Restaurateurs are also continuing to invest in Siesta properties, despite forecasts of rising food costs from the U.S Department of Agriculture.

Sarasota entrepreneur Sean Murphy has opened the third location of his concept Eat Here.

Beyond Design is finished with the $300,000 renovation to the former location of Total Tennis.

The small-plate restaurant will join Sub Zero Ice Cream as the newest additions to Siesta Key Village with the latter’s opening planned for January, said a post on the ice cream parlor’s Facebook page.

Beach Bites opened its doors in the same Village alley on Avenida Madera last fall.

Brown also plans a $32,000 renovation to the Beach Club, according to records with the Sarasota County building department, and owners of the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar recently pulled a building permit for nearly $8,000 in work on the restaurant.

Contact Alex Mahadevan at alexm@yourobserver.com.

 

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