In-State Travelers Drive Summer Visitation



While the winter season may always be king when it comes to tourism on the Gulf Coast, the summer season will bring with it a serious boost of drive-in travel and family vacationers.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, says hospital leaders are preparing now for a July rush. That means a shift in marketing and in the type of consumers enjoying Sarasota as a destination.

“We do a lot more with the drive markets within Florida,” she says. “And it’s beach first. These are definitely beachgoers.”

Instead of spring newlyweds or retired snowbirds, the summer means families with children in tow.

It’s not all sands and sunshine. Sports events drive much of the event-driven travel. Haley notes Nathan Benderson Park hosted the US Rowing Youth National Championships last weekend. Such tourneys tend to attract entire families to book rooms and spend a weekend shopping and dining in the Sarasota-Manatee area.

On the horizon, the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix begins on Jun 29 and runs through Independence Day and on to July 7.

“We want to stage events that excite and entertain, ensuring enjoyment for spectators and TV audiences with great sponsor value and a real economic impact for host venues,” says Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala, and Offshore Powerboat Association President Roland Smith in a joint statement.

And it will bring a boost to the number of guests in Sarasota as well, Haley says. While she acknowledges the beach serves as a draw during the Fourth of July no matter what, hosting the powerboats alongside the island destination brings additional crowds. “Research has shown the races do draw people coming here specifically for the races,” she said.

Throughout July, Haley anticipates strong traffic from summer vacationers, many from Miami, Tampa and Orlando. The tourism bureau has shifted its marketing efforts to draw those visitors from Florida onto Interstate-75 to enjoy the region’s beaches.

Photo courtesy Visit Sarasota County

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