Sarasota-Manatee Tourism: From Europe, with love

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British transplant Mark Toomey owns Robin Hood Rentals on Siesta Key.

 PHOTO by/ NICK ADAMS

By Dale White
Year after year, the Sarasota-Manatee region has been shattering its own records for attracting European tourists and 2015 appears to be no exception.

From 2010 through 2014, the numbers of Europeans patronizing area lodgings, restaurants and attractions from Anna Maria Island to Venice climbed by more than 50 percent – from more than 125,350 to more than 188,500. Reports from the first quarter of this year already show that foreign visitor count up 7.3 percent compared with the same three-month period of 2014. And the bulk of European visitors expected for this year are still two or more months away from making landfall.

Those year-over-year increases do not come by chance. Visit Sarasota County and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau credit a strategy that promotes this area as a destination for travelers from the United Kingdom and central European countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland. That strategy calls for targeted advertising and making connections with travel agencies most Europeans rely on. The strategy continues to work, even when the exchange rate is not in the dollar’s favor.

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