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Visits to Sarasota County trend down in May year over year

Sarasota County saw a decrease in visitors in May compared with May 2023 but not as significant a dropoff in room nights sold.
Sarasota County saw a decrease in visitors in May compared with May 2023 but not as significant a dropoff in room nights sold.
Image courtesy of Visit Sarasota County
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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The number of visitors to Sarasota County was down in May compared with the same time in 2023, according to new data from Visit Sarasota County, the tourism arm for the area. Several other metrics trended down year-over-year, with one slight increase in the average room rate. And there was a bright spot in terms of international visitors.

Overall, the number of visitors in May was 121,000 compared with 140,610 in May 2023. Accounting for the decline in visitors was smaller travel party sizes with longer stays, according to Erin Duggan, president and CEO of Visit Sarasota County. Supporting that idea is the number of room nights sold in May was not down as much overall visitors. Officials say 265,200 room nights were sold in May compared with 276,400 room nights sold in May 2023 in Sarasota County.

While they were down year over year, visits were up from month to month in Sarasota County. In April, Sarasota County had 120,800 visitors, the Business Observer previously reported, so May saw a gain of about 200 visitors.

Lodging occupancy was down a bit year over year, at 62.3% in May, compared with 66.1% in May 2023. Visitors also spent slightly less overall, with visitor expenditures totaling nearly $140,000 in May compared with $156,037,800 in May 2023.

The price of a room ticked up slightly, from $251.17 in May 2023 to $251.37 a night in May, according to Duggan.

The data revealed a couple of interesting points about the tourists visiting Sarasota County.

Most visitors were returning to the area after having been to Sarasota County before. Of those who visited Sarasota County in May, Duggan says 25% came for the first time.

And the county’s top tourism official says there is one source of visitors that is trending up.

“While we are seeing declines, I will note that our Fiscal YTD visitation from Canada remains elevated when compared to 2023,” Duggan says in a statement. “As we continue to look to diversify the visitor we look to attract, ensuring we are marketing to both new and return visitors remains as important as ever.”



Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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