Airport and tourism officials gear up for a busy holiday travel season

Bay County

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Local travel officials are gearing up for what is expected to be a busy holiday traveling season starting Thanksgiving week.

“We are feeling really good,” Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Board Chairman Glen McDonald said. “We’re excited about holiday travel.”

McDonald said they are expecting an uptick of passengers coming through the airport in just a few days.

“We’re expecting passengers to pick up around Monday or Tuesday for the Thanksgiving weekend and then to come back Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to fly back out,” he said. “We want our passengers to try to be patient because we will see an influx and many people have not traveled in a very long time.”

ECP Airport Director Parker McClellan is also wanting visitors to be aware of the issues this may cause.

“We expect an increase in pas­sen­ger trav­el this hol­i­day sea­son, both fre­quent fly­ers and those not so famil­iar with the Air­port process,” he said. ​“Prepa­ra­tion and patience are vital for a smooth and safe trav­el experience.”

Walton County Tourism Development Council leader and ECP board member Jason Cutshaw said with the addition of more flights at the airport, they are seeing more visitors than usual.

“Having that connectivity to be able to bring in more direct flights has definitely increased our percentage in folks we see flying into the market,” Cutshaw said.

And an increase in visitors will bring an increase in local spending.

“So when we have that, we have car rentals, and we have that domino effect of more services are needed so therefore the economy gets a little bit of a boost,” Cutshaw said.

The ECP airport experienced major record-breaking numbers of travelers in 2021, and while the numbers slowed down after this year’s busy summer season, they are ready for visitor rates to pick back up in the coming weeks.

ECP has also dubbed itself the “official sponsor of holiday reconnections.”

“No one would have ever thought we would’ve broke every travel record at ECP this year, so we’re expecting people to get back out… People want to see their families… We’re gonna advertise to that, and we’re ready for them,” McDonald said. “When you have a summer like we’ve had, we’re ready and we just want the passengers to arrive early if they can and to be patient once they get here.”

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