PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLA. (WMBB) — Bay County beaches are swarmed with tourists on vacation this July 4th holiday weekend. After not being able to enjoy annual fireworks on Panama City Beach, which were canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, visitors returned this year.

Besides spending time at the beaches, tourists plan to visit local businesses and eat at restaurants around the county. Tourism is the top economic driver for Bay County, Panama City Beach official Lacee Rudd said. 

Much of that revenue stems from holiday weekends, like July 4th. For many local businesses, the holiday is one of their busiest times of year. As tourists transition from online spending, to in-person purchases, Bay County businesses benefit.

“A lot of my spending was online so I guess since I’m out and on a beach and in a different city that there won’t be as much online ordering or online shopping,” tourist Marcus Quarterman said. So it’ll be a lot more going out to restaurants and instead of doing, probably still doing the takeout instead of sitting in the restaurant.”

Over the July 4th holiday, many visitors anticipate spending more money than they normally would. 

“Well I’ll be honest with you, you know normally the house you’re cooking things there, making things,” Brian Arnold said. “So we’ll go out to eat a lot more, you know spend some money with the local restauranters. And then you know its vacation its fourth of July you know we’re going to drink a little bit more than we probably normally would.”

Tourists on Panama City Beach mentioned that they anticipate trying new businesses throughout the weekend. Many visitors come to Bay County once a year, if not more frequently, and are familiar with the area.

As visitors stay near the beach for the next few days, many plan to eat out often, creating more potential revenue for local businesses.

“You know you stayed at home a whole lot more and people just came over,” Arnold said about the COVID-19 pandemic. “So everybody kind of groups in and throws things together. This one like I said, we’ll be out enjoying as much of this as we can, just being around the social gathering, just being around friends and family. So we’ll be in the restaurants, spending time with each other, then going to the restaurants throwing money in there.”