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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jun. 1, 2016 5 years ago

Locals drive summer traffic on Longboat Key

When snowbirds leave town, Floridians often take a road trip to local beaches.
by: Kristen Herhold Community Editor

It’s finally summertime. The snowbirds have gone home, the traffic has cleared, and the waits for restaurants have diminished.

But despite fewer people, tourists are still coming. These tourists, however, are not coming from afar.

Welcome to the season of locals.

“We stay pretty busy during the summer months with people who can do the drive and get here in a day or half-day trip,” said property manager Bonnie Wiedeman, of Wagner Realty, who manages Longboat establishments such as Wicker Inn, Cedars East and Sea Club III. “People are coming but not from far.”

Because residents already experience the hot Florida summers, they’re not as wary as those in northern states of visiting the state during the warmer months.

“Many people from inland just want to spend a week on the beach and bring their families,” Wiedeman said. “The kids are out of school, and it’s an affordable family getaway.”

Wiedeman said rentals cost 40% to 50% less than in season.

“It’s time for these people to take advantage of the discount with offseason rates,” she said.

In the summer, the Longboat Chamber of Commerce advertises in other Florida cities such as Tampa and Orlando, which helps drive local tourists here.

“Our typical summer on Longboat, we see people from Tampa, Orlando, the other coast, Broward County, Miami-Dade who are just getting away,” Chamber President Gail Loefgren said.

Although the tourists still visit the Key, it is, of course, much slower than the spring season. On a typical day during season, Loefgren sees 30 people at her office. In the summer, just 10 to 15 people visit the chamber each day — more when it’s rainy and fewer when it’s sunny.

Despite the summer bringing mainly other Florida residents to the Key, this could change in the near future.

“Typically  the majority of our summer traffic are the staycation people from the state of Florida,” said Casa Del Mar General Manager Mark Meador. “But the economy is picking up, and a few of those are heading out of state now. The plus side is now what I’m seeing this summer is we’re getting a lot more people from  the Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee area who didn’t come before.”

When Loefgren does see tourists from other states, they’re typically families visiting after spending time in Orlando.

“Frequently, the other thing we see in the summertime is people going to Disney World or Universal Studios, and then after, they usually drive over to us and say it’s time to relax,” she said.

The summer is also a common time for Europeans to visit.

“Our summer season is typically as robust as the winter season for us,” said Sandra Rios, director of communications at the Resort at Longboat Key Club. “Most of our guests will visit from the Tampa and Orlando areas beginning June, and then we will see an upswing in our international guests starting in August.”

Although many are expecting a typical summer for tourism this year, some are hoping for better than normal.

“We just got the report from Visit Sarasota County at our board meeting in May, and they are really doing a massive campaign in the summer market, and they’re anticipating we’ll have a very strong summer,” said Diana Corrigan,  executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association. “Hotels are booking pretty well, and they’re feeling pretty positive. We’re picking up our marketing in the summer as well.”

Corrigan also summer is a time Sarasota residents can enjoy St. Armands Circle and its surrounding sites.

“Bring the locals back over the bridge,” Corrigan said. “It’s the local season. It’s their time.”

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