SARASOTA COUNTY (WWSB) - Peak season on the Suncoast is coming to an end and Visit Sarasota County said they saw more visitors than in past years.
Visit Sarasota County released numbers from January through March 2019. They report 418,040 visitors came to Sarasota County and stayed in paid lodging during that time. That is a 1.6% Increase from the previous year. The winter visitors also spent an estimated $525 million in the county.
Although there is a slight increase in tourism from last year, Visit Sarasota County said they have not fully bounced back from the impact red tide had on tourism.The group also said they are worried about how successful tourism will be this summer.
"Unfortunately our summer booking are not where they should be right now, that indicated to us that there's still a lot of people doing a wait and see to make sure red tide's not here," said Visit Sarasota County President, Virginia Haley.
Visit Sarasota County attributes the increase in winter visitors to advertising, which they usually don’t do for the winter months but decided to after red tide hurt tourism.
Along with targeting their normal feeder markets, the group also focused on targeting people who are known to big spenders from places like Cincinnati and Cleveland.
"We really focused on those areas because they tend to be higher spenders and that's one of our goals, we want people here who can leave plenty of their dollars behind and encourage them to spend the money," Haley said.
Visit Sarasota County brought in travel writers and meeting planners as well over the last few months to show off all of the new hotels and attractions the county has to offer.
Winter tourism has steadily increased since the recession in 2008.