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Red tide blamed for worst Sarasota tourism decline since 9/11

Sarasota County's legislative delegation is asked to prioritize fighting the toxic algae.

Sarasota leaders heard more details Monday about how devastating red tide has been, with the county's top tourism promoter telling the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation that the region has experienced the worst tourism decline in more than a decade.

Visit Sarasota County Executive Director Virginia Haley told the delegation that the drop in tourism at the end of last year was the worst the county has seen since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

And Haley said bookings are still off as the region enters peak tourism season.

“It’s having a real massive lingering effect,” Haley said.

Haley noted that this is the first time there has been a severe red tide in the era of cellphone cameras. The images of dead fish have ricocheted across the Internet, giving tourism promoters tremendous challenges.

Red tide often has intermittent impacts. A bad stretch of red tide can quickly give way to good beach conditions for an extended period.