Business owners say red tide ‘perceptions’ take toll on tourism

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reporting low to medium concentrations of red tide in Sarasota County. Meantime, Manatee County waters remain in the clear.

Locals hope with changing wind patterns, it stays that way.

Despite no reports of red tide in Manatee County, local business owners say reports of red tide anywhere in the region can impact beach businesses negatively.

West Coast Surf Shop owner Jim Brady says in many cases perception tops reality.

“Red tides in Fort Myers, 120 miles away can affect the whole state. Everybody thinks Florida is somehow compact or something and if there’s something going on down there, 120 miles away, it could affect this area,” said Brady.

Vacation rental property manager Jason Mooney saw it recently with cancellations following the incident at Piney Point.

“Whenever the news broke with the Piney Point incident, within about three or four hours we even had people reaching out to us from as far away as Germany. It just was a lot of hysteria,” said Mooney.

To combat some of the perceptions tied to red tide in the past, Mooney and his colleagues at Island Vacation Properties started getting aggressive with videos on social media.

“We had a lot of people thank us because we were on top of it every single day and showing them the people on the beach, the water clarity, and we even would get in the water,” Mooney said.

He’s urging visitors to keep a close eye on the conditions and do research before jumping to conclusions.

“That was a big deal — people reacting today to something that may or may not happen eight or 10 weeks down the road,” said Mooney.

The beaches on Anna Maria Island were packed Friday afternoon as were the businesses.

“We are hopeful, especially with COVID in the last year and this whole thing, we just hope to keep it this way,” said local restaurant owner Clark Freeman.

For the latest red tide updates visit FWC’s website.

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