Sarasota becoming popular tourist spot

Every year thousands of visitors migrate from cold weather to a tropical paradise.

That includes Jeffrey Kirchner of Lancaster Pennsylvania.

"We really love it here. It’s a beautiful, special place," he said.

Kirchner has been coming to Lido Beach for the past three decades.

"We bring our bikes, so we walk and bike as much as we can and really take advantage of the climate and friendliness of the people," he said.

He and his family stay at Casa Limonada.

This year, he’s noticed even more visitors before spring break officially starts. 

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"We are finding a growing number saying oh we stayed in Ft.Myers in past years, I talked to a couple on the beach this morning. They normally go to Sanibel and they’re coming up and checking it out. It’s sort of bitter sweet from our perspective," he said.

In January, Visit Sarasota said occupancy rates were up 7% compared to last year.

With Southwest Florida still cleaning up from Hurricane Ian, those numbers could grow.

"Really what we want is to keep these visitors coming to the West Coast of Florida. We know that Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel will build back better than ever. We welcome that time  for when that happens and our regular competition. They’re our competitors, but they are great friends as well," said Virginia Haley, the president of Visit Sarasota.

Scott Kauffman from Buffalo, New York can see and feel the change.

 "Somebody lives where we are residing as they were displaced in Ft.Myers and they bought a place in Sarasota. It’s really crowded and you have to plan your activities around peak traffic time," he said.

Kauffman’s 96-year-old mom, Norma, introduced him to the area years ago.

Even with an increase in traffic and people, you’ll still find him here.

"It’s the nature, the beauty, the variety of the beaches," he said.