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Despite the pandemic, Manatee County sees highest July and August tourism in years

ANNA MARIA, Fla. — The highs and lows of 2020 continue in Manatee County. In 2019, Manatee County had its most successful tourism year ever, making more than $1 billion in tourism tax dollars.Business in 2020 looked promising until the pandemic hit and tourism tax dollars plummeted by 70 percent in the spring.”The very best of times and the very worst of times, that is definitely 2020,” said Paul Foster, owner of Ginny’s and Jane E’s on Anna Maria Island.But once restaurants and rentals were allowed to reopen, so did the flood gates for tourists.In July and August, tourism tax dollars were up by nearly 30 percent, higher than they’ve been in years.”We got to open backup over Memorial Day weekend and we have been non-stop since then, like jam-packed through June, July and August. Even in September, when we’re completely dead, we’ve had more bookings than ever before,” said Emma Stringer owner of Beach Retreats Vacation Rentals.Stringer says normally, they have a lot of international visitors but this year, it’s mostly Americans.”We’re seeing a ton of local visitors so Florida, Georgians anywhere you can drive in from and not have to take an airplane,” said Stringer.Many businesses say they’re continuing to require masks and practice social distancing so that everyone stays safe.

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