T.D.C. analyzing ‘summer-after-Michael’ tourism numbers


PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — The Labor Day weekend wraps up another summer season, and the Bay County Tourist Development Council is adding up the numbers to see how major visitor areas like Panama City Beach did the summer after Hurricane Michael.

“Numbers were comparable to 2018,” said Lacee Rudd, the Public Relations Manager for Visit Panama City Beach. “They weren’t record-breaking in the sense that they weren’t so far over the numbers in 2018, and 2018 was a good season for us, so it’s not that 2019 has been bad, it’s been really good.”

That rings true for many businesses on the beach, like Schooners Beach Club and Restaurant.

“Labor Day weekend was right in line with what we expected,” said General Manager Mark Weber. “We had a really great summer, it was very successful, our numbers were all up.”

Some other local restaurants and hotels weren’t as fortunate.

“I think the sit-down restaurants struggled a little bit this summer, that’s from what I’ve heard,” said Buddy Wilkes, who manages Shipwreck Island Water Park in Panama City Beach. “It was an unusual tourism season from a spending standpoint.”

He said the water park did have a good summer with visitors, many coming from states they’ve previously not seen as much.

“Missouri was big, Texas was big, Kentucky was bigger this year than ever,” said Wilkes.

After Hurricane Michael, he said they weren’t sure what to expect in terms of visitors, but were pleasantly surprised; so was the T.D.C..

“All things considered, the summer season turned out really great,” said Rudd.

She said their numbers were on par with last year’s summer season, not record breaking but not a significant drop either.

According to a June report, there was a 7.46 percent drop in bed-taxes, due to fewer people staying in Panama City Beach in Lieu of concerns over Hurricane Barry. The July numbers will be released later this month.

Despite the loss, she said Gulf Coast Jam has increased visitor spending in the area by 10 percent since it’s addition.

“Tourism is the lifeline of Bay County and we just want to keep that alive,” said Rudd. “We want people to come back to this destination year round.”

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