Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sarasota Attracts More Than Sunshine As Tourists Enjoy The Beaches Again

Sarasota Attracts More Than Sunshine As Tourists Enjoy The Beaches Again

Florida's tourism industry is getting a much needed jump start in 2012, and Sarasota's Siesta Key Beach is enjoying the boost as well. After a record high number of tourists in 2011, it is looking as if 2012 is off to an even better beginning.

In 2010, the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon hurt Florida's tourism trade in many ways. Already hurting from the recession, now tourists were afraid of soiled beaches and cancelled their trips. The bustling in-state tourism trade feared rising gas prices and chose to cancel as well. 2011, however, showed an increase in visitors, up 4.4 percent from the previous year. Officials feel that the long dark summer of recession, coupled with the shadow of the oil spill, is finally over and Florida is fully expected to recover.

Sarasota was unfairly judged following the events of the oil spill; Siesta Key had no oil wash up on its pristine shores yet tourists cancelled reservations through the end of June of 2010. 2011, however, found Sarasota's tourism trade boosted at 10.9 percent, accounting for an increased revenue of 13.9 percent; this is the highest of all Florida counties for the year. Sarasota real estate and rental properties are benefitting from the 2011 recovery in a big way with an increase in home sales of 18.2 percent during the year, and 2012 is starting off just as strong. Sarasota real estate agents remain optimistic as luxury home sales increase, the demand for rental properties rises, and the opportunity to profit from the increase in tourism drives investment property sales.

Airports have shared on the booming re-emergence of the tourism trade in Florida with an increase in revenue during 2011 of nearly 12 percent. Taxes on various tourist industry related sales jumped to over 7.2 percent.

Sarasota and other Florida counties saw increases in the international tourist trade by 21.8 percent, and domestic tourism jumped up by 3 percent. Florida residents began to vacation in-state again, with an increase of 12.5 percent in 2011. During the last year, room rental rates increased by 5.5 percent to an average of just under $119 per night. The overall amount of profit generated by room rentals was up 10.9 percent, beating the rest of the country's room revenue by 2.1 percent. In fact, so strong was the year for the tourism trade that job creation jumped 4 percent with an additional 38,000 jobs added. All indications are that these trends will continue throughout 2012; tourism in Florida has not been this high since 2007.

The success of Siesta Key Beach and other Florida hot spots for vacationers seems to be a combination of increased confidence in the economy and the desire to simply travel after previous years of consumer worries and economic woes. This year's strong start appears to be attributed to the exceptionally mild winter so far.

Sarasota will continue to draw tourists and remain on the forefront of the tourist trade with its ample offerings of trade shows featuring antiques, arts and crafts, boats, jewelry and more. Festivals such as the Annual Downtown Festival Of The Arts and the Downtown Arts and Crafts festival will continue to entice visits throughout the year, and the white sandy beaches of Siesta Key will remain a popular tourist spot. Golfing, deep sea fishing and tourist attractions like the John and Mable Ringling Museum and the beautiful islands off the coastline will keep the tourist trade active in and around Sarasota.
It is possible, however, that gas prices will skyrocket and discourage in-state vacationers from traveling to Siesta Key Beach and other summer get-away destinations. While it is likely that Florida's residents will still travel in their state, it is feared that they won't spend as much when they travel and will cut their vacations short. International financial instability is causing great concern for the now flourishing tourism trade as well.

Still, as of January 2011, Florida's tourist industry has led the way in market shares across the United States by two points. The measure of the success of Florida's recovery can be found in Sarasota's real estate market, which has been named number five on the top ten turnaround list for the housing industry. 2012 started with a 38 percent increase of pending home sales in January, which is a very optimistic sign of the county's recovering economy. Condo prices have increased by 20 percent and home prices have jumped by 17 percent.

All of Florida is benefitting from a re-energized tourist industry, and Sarasota is definitely leading the way in that recovery.