BRADENTON, Fla. -- Great news for the Bradenton area: The tourism numbers are in for 2013 and the economy is looking better than ever. Today, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau presented what they're calling record breaking numbers in visitors, expenditures and jobs.
"It's the number one industry in the state of Florida," says Elliott Falcione of the Bradenton Convention and Visitor's Bureau. "We want to say it's the lifeblood of the state of Florida."
Officials say that tourism is the largest revenue producing industry in Manatee County, supporting more than 20,500 jobs in 2013 alone and generating $40 million in state sales taxes.
"Our destination is seeing a third year consecutive year of record breaking visitation, and economic impact of almost a billion dollars," Falcione says.
The white pristine beaches have always attracted visitors, but this past year Anna Maria Island Resorts say they were nearly booked all year round.
"Our lower seasons are filling up to the point where they're all becoming higher seasons as well," says David Teitelbaum, president of Anna Maria Island Resorts.
More than 2.8 million visitors came through Bradenton in 2013 and the growing sports industry has been a draw for both national and international visitors.
"The evolution of IMG Academy, Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch, and really Ellenton Ice as well with the six Olympic skaters training there, have created some marketplace impressions that we really never expected," Falcione says.
With over 170 sporting events booked this year, an increased focus on the arts and culture -- some are hopeful that 2014 will be even more successful. Starting with Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival, which will be bringing in filmmakers from around the country and from as far away as Europe.
"People are going to come here, actually from all over the world, they're going to fall in love with this area, they're going to start their own film studios, or they're going to buy homes, or they're going to either invest," says Susan Short of the Bradenton Arts Movieville International Film Festival.