Panama City Beach officials expect record-breaking year for tourism

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — As the world seems to return to a sense of normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic, numbers of visitors are rapidly climbing in the Bay County area.

“We expect 2021 to be a record-breaking year for Panama City Beach,” Visit Panama City Beach Public Relations Manager Lacee Rudd said.

Rudd said tourism in Panama City Beach started out strong this year— in March, they reported tourism was up 40 percent over their benchmark year in 2018.

She said they expect those trends to continue into the summer months, starting this Memorial Day weekend.

“We’re excited to welcome back all of those returning and new visitors into the destination,” Rudd said. “This [Memorial Day] weekend, we’re seeing full occupancy throughout the destination.”

Rudd said she thinks tourism is growing this year because more people have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and the CDC continues to update their guidelines for reopening.

She said Visit Panama City Beach is excited to kickoff annual events that weren’t able to take place last year because of the pandemic, including UNwineD and Gulf Coast Jam.

“Things are getting back to normal… We’re excited to welcome the visitors back,” Rudd said. “It’s a beautiful destination to get down with your family, your friends and just enjoy our amazing weather and beautiful beaches.”

More good news for the county: Rudd said tourism is one of the biggest economic drivers in Bay.

“That’s reflected in all the new developments that we’re seeing in the area,” Rudd said. “We’re seeing new restaurants, new attractions, new accommodations coming up in the area, and that’s all because of the visitors that come and enjoy their vacations in this year-round destination.”

As tourism rates in the area continue to climb, she said they are looking forward to a wonderful start to the summer vacation travel season.

“I know everyone in the community is excited to get back to that normalcy,” Rudd said. “And just getting back to the Real. Fun. Beach.”

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