Has traffic affected tourism in Sarasota County?

Has traffic affected tourism in Sarasota County?

NYC pic by J. Parisi (C)

Congestion pic by J. Parisi (C)

by: Alex Mahadevan Digital Editor via yourobserver.com

Traffic woes again surfaced during a local government meeting Tuesday, with Sarasota County officials downplaying the effect it has on the local tourism industry.

“Do we have traffic problems? Yes. Do we need to continue to work on it? Yes,” said Commissioner Christine Robinson. “But, the comments that tourists are beginning to shy away from Sarasota simply aren’t true.”

Robinson said she looks forward to working on traffic problems, but said the “rumor mill” she’s heard at community and government meetings about gridlock crippling regional tourism weren’t true. And that amplifying those comments could actually hurt the tourism sector in the long run.

“We have had occasional complaints, but they have had more to do with parking ticket issues,” said Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley, who was presenting the Tourist Development Council’s annual report.

According to visitor profiles complied by the Visit Sarasota County for the first quarter of this year, 97% of tourists polled were satisfied with their trips and 93% of respondents said they would return to the region again. While Haley expected to get dinged this year due to traffic, those numbers did not fall compared with the same timeframe in 2014.

Gridlock doesn’t have a profound affect on visitors because they aren’t in a hurry to get to work or drop their kids off at school, Haley said. And when traffic backs up on the Ringling Bridge or through St. Armands Circle, the views of Sarasota Bay and surrounding areas are pleasant sights.

“It’s not a terrible experience,” Haley said.

But, Haley said it will be important to explore new ways of moving tourists throughout the county, citing ideas for more trolleys or water taxis as potential transportation options.

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