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Sarasota Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 4 years ago

Reality show has no impact on Siesta Key, yet

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A California community that got its own reality show saw a spike in tourism traffic, but Siesta Key may not get the same thing.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

The first 10 episodes of MTV’s “Siesta Key” are over, but there are more episodes to come — and the effect the show had on the real Siesta Key has yet to be seen.

The reality show was renewed for another eight episodes, with production underway now. These episodes will complete the first full season when they air in winter 2018.

When the first of the 10 episodes aired July 31, some residents were concerned.

Daniel Zuknick, 44, said he was worried about “the caliber of people” who would visit the Key after the reality show aired.

“It’s wonderful for tourism, but at what point does it become too much of a good thing?” he asked, echoing the concerns of many residents.

Others were excited about the tourism and exposure bump the show might bring.

Read: Residents react to 'Siesta Key' reality show

The cast of 'Siesta Key' is made up of young adults who all grew up on or near Siesta Key.

In the end, it’s hard to find any impact. Asked if there has been a spike in tourism that could be attributed to the show, Visit Sarasota President Virginia Haley said the answer is, simply, “no.”

Businesses featured on the show — such as Gilligan’s Island Bar and Grill, Lelu Coffee Lounge, the Cottage and the Beach Club — didn’t notice anything different about their clientele. 

“It’s been the same,” said Mike Granthon, managing partner of The Beach Club and The Cottage. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

Of 10 Siesta Key visitors polled on a recent morning, there were no consistent watchers. Three residents in the group, and one regular visitor from Canada, said they had seen one episode, and they could each only name one cast member: either Alex Kompothecras, son of producer Gary Kompothecras, or Garrett Miller.

Others from out of state had never heard of or seen the show.

According to MTV, “Siesta Key” is the network’s top performing new series since summer 2014.

Read: Meet the cast of 'Siesta Key'

“Siesta Key” follows the model of a former MTV reality show called “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” that aired in the early 2000s. This show followed the lives of high school students for three seasons and inspired the spin-off show “The Hills,” which aired from 2006-2010.

From MTV’s “Laguna Beach,” Visit Laguna Beach President Ashley Johnson said their area did see a spike in tourism traffic based on viewership. 

“We did definitely see an uptick in visitation at that time and throughout those several seasons,” Johnson said. “People came here specifically because their kids watched the MTV ‘Laguna Beach’ show.”

The series returns in winter 2018.

So much traffic came from the show that Visit Laguna Beach created handouts that would tell people exactly which restaurants, stores and music venues in the area were featured on the show. 

Johnson said the spike in visitors started six to eight months after the show began, and numbers have stayed consistent. However, she isn’t sure that’s a good indicator for what Siesta Key can expect.

“I really do think it was because it was one of the first reality shows and people felt they could meet them,” she said of the increase in visitors. “They wanted to experience what [the cast] could experience.”

Additionally, like many Siesta Key residents, those living in Laguna Beach weren’t thrilled with the show after it aired.

“It created an interesting Catch-22 for residents, because I think we were perceived in that show as rich and stuck-up,” she said, describing Laguna Beach as a high-end, sophisticated and elegant community, but not stuck-up. “It sort of created a negative perception from a resident standpoint.”

Jennifer Smith, owner of Lelu Coffee Lounge on Siesta Key, said she doesn’t think “Siesta Key” is going to have an impact on the island.

“It was a good stir and there was lots of talk about it when it was going on,” she said. “But Siesta Key is Siesta Key, and it always will be Siesta Key.”

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