Do families spend more on spring break than spring breakers? – Survey Results

by May 17, 2008 • 13 comments

At the request of the Panama City Beach Tourist Development council, The Klages Group put together a visitor profile survey to compile information about who is coming to our beaches. The report is on Quarter 1 2008 and is compared to Quarter 4 2007.

I’ve emailed and asked how to the study sample was chosen and asked how the data was collected. Having taken a class on survey methodology in undergrad school, I have some experience with this and am interested to see their reply. I had heard that their study sample was just under 500, but I want to know how the sample was chosen.

The entire study is available for download after the break.

I’m sure it would come as no surprise that more people travel here by car than anything else. Over 75% of all visitors to our area came here by car in the 1st quarter with over 90% of those here on spring break traveled here by car.

Under the category “Airport Deplaned”, I assume this is the airport they arrived at. I find it strange that Ft. Walton is not represented here. Maybe I am misunderstanding this. For those traveling here in Q1, it reades 49.6% Pensacola Airport, 32.2% Panama City Airport, 11.3% Tallahassee Airport, 4.3% Atlanta Airport.

There were clearly some trends evident and expected evidence of the younger generations. For example, for all those that traveled here during Q1, 42% found information about Panama City Beach on the internet, whereas, those that traveled here exclusively for spring break, 71% found information about Panama City Beach on the internet. Also, 44% of those spring breakers that traveled here found their accomodations online, whereas, those that were here during Q1, not for spring break, only 24% booked online.

82% of those here on spring break found the expense to be what they expected. 75% of the Q1 visitors found the expense to be as expected.

83% of those here on spring break said they would recommend Panama City Beach to their friends, whereas, 61% of those here during spring break, but not “on” spring break, and 64% of those here in Q1 said they would recommend our area.

The survey also concludes that those that are here during spring break, but not “on” spring break SPEND MORE MONEY than those here “on” spring break.

The calculations, however are wrong for what the survey concludes people here during spring break, but not “on” spring break spend per day. The survey states that those here “on” spring break spend $65.53 per day per person, yet those here during spring break, but not “on” spring break spend only $22.35 per day per person. Again, this is wrong if you calculate the “during spring break” the same as the survey calculates the “on spring break”, explanation:

First to give you enough information to do the calculation, numbers according to the survey:

Here on spring break

5.5 days: Average length of stay in Panama City Beach
3 people: Average number of people in traveling party

Here during spring break

5.6 days: Average length of stay in Panama City Beach
2.1 people: Average number of people in traveling party

Here on Spring Break

$1081.28 total spent per trip per party ($1081.28/3 people=$360.43)
$360.43 total spent per person per trip ($360.43/5.5 days=$65.53)
$65.53 total spent per person per day

Here during Spring Break

$1438.82 total spent per trip per part ($1438.82/2.1 people=$685.15) 33% more spent
$685.15 total spent per person per trip ($685.15/5.6 days=$122.35) 90% more spent
$122.35 total spent per person per day (the survey document says only $22.35) 87% more spent

The conclusion is still a little flaky as I’m not sure as to the demographic of what the survey describes as here during spring break, but not on spring break. I would love to say that families here during spring break, spend more than “spring breakers”, but there isn’t enough information provided in this survey to conclude that.

I should also note that these numbers include accommodations, food/entertainment, and retail purchases.

Also, when looking at other segments included in the survey, including Q4 2007 and Q1 2008, spring breakers consistently spent less than all the other segments. In fact, when calculating per day per person, the closest spring breakers get to spending as much as our visitors during the other segments is during Q4 2007 (when it is cheapest to come here, nonetheless) at 8.5% less, AND the Q4 visitors had an average length of stay of over 8 days.

Also, interesting was that 39% of all spring breakers surveyed thought of Panama City Beach as a family friendly place. 51% of spring breakers thought the beaches were “very safe” for children, whereas 25% of those here during spring break thought the beaches were “very safe” for children. 48% of spring breakers thought there were activities for all ages, whereas only 26% of those here during spring break thought there were activities for all ages. 56% of spring breakers thought there was too much traffic, whereas only 28% of those here during spring break thought there was too much traffic.

All in all, I think the survey is pretty good. I had heard comments that those that are in support of spring break have much to work with through this survey, but I actually beleive that this has some pretty strong arguments against spring break. Finding that one incorrect calculation causes a little discredit to the validity, and I would like to know how the study sample was determined and how the data was collected. If anyone has any insight to this, please chime in.

Ok, the complainer has spoken again, flame on!

The Klages Group First Quarter 2008 Visitor Profile

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1 Tabor - PCB Condo Owner May 17, 2008 at 8:19 pm

The studies failure to separate data regarding families on spring break from kids on spring break without their families is ridiculous and misses some extremely relevant information. It also incorrectly represents the value of those on spring break that are not part of a family. Families on spring break are what we want, just as we want families on vacation during the summer. Kids on spring break without families are the problem, not families on spring break.


2 RC May 18, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Look at who ordered the survey. I think you will see why the questions were phrased so as to get the results they wanted. And even then it appears the data does not support the “college spring break”.

I have a son that is in college. He and 30 of his frat brothers rented 3 houses for spring break in PCB. I can assure you no one made much money off of them other than the bars and fast food places. College kids do not eat in nice resteraunts, do not buy much, and pack 8-12 kids into any house or condo they rent.

Two or three familys would have had a much better finacial impact on PCB than his whole fraternity house. That is unless you own a bar.


3 Charles May 18, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Hi Jason,

Your calculations are correct, and it looks as though they forgot to add that one there… and a big difference it makes. Also true, VPS should be in the stats but isn’t.

I have to agree with Tabor… How many families are here during spring break with their kids, because their kids wanted to come to PCB? If you asked a father or mother, “Are you here as a spring breaker?” the correct and true answer is, “No. I am not here as a spring breaker.” BUT, if you change that question to, “Are you here because of spring break?” then you could get a, “Yes, I brought my son/daughter/friends down for spring break, so they would have some adult supervision.” So same person but two completely different results. So, without the questionnaire, we are limited to qualifying the results.

Now, the results do ask “Party Composition” and it does list “Family” as a response, but what it interesting here is that 29.7% of Spring Breakers was families, while only 9.1% here not for Spring Break was with family… So that says, more families are here because of spring break then not!? Further to this, the “Traveling with Children/Young Adults” shows that 83.8% of Spring Breakers/(came here for it.) came with Children/Young Adults, while only 10.9% of here but not for SB had Children. So this tells me that there is still a considerable amount of retired people still here on vacation during March.

The one item that I professionally would like to point out is the stats on the TDC website. “Accessed” with 62.3% of spring breakers accessing that site. YET… the TDC, Y Partnership, and MTV only promoted, and didn’t promote to spring breakers. Further to this, I have seen the Google and Webtrends Analytic of many of my customers and can PROVE, that thebeachloversbeach and didn’t drive the traffic that this report claims… AND under “Information Sources” Convention and Visitors Bureau are listed as 5.4% for spring breaker and 5.5% for non-spring breakers. I would guarantee you that if you added a question like, “What internet site did you reach for information?”,,,… would be on top and again, I have the stats to show this.

Another item, “How Made Lodging Reservations for Stay” Direct Call to Hotel 25% and 34.9%… how did the consumers get the phone number to the condo/hotel? The true stats that people get these numbers from the internet is astronomical, not 100% noway but a large considerable amount.

On “Reservations” Before Arriving in Area and None… with 18.1% of none spring breaker not having reservation before arriving either means that they own property here, family lives here, doesn’t have kids (almost all parents that I know makes sure everything is arrange for the kids safety.) or doesn’t plan vacation, which makes me question is this is the type of people we should be marketing to.

There are many items in this survey that I find interesting, some correct, some mysterious, and some just plain crazy…

More later,


4 Charles May 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm


Not trying to go against your grain, but Panama City Beach IS made up of Bars, Restaurants and Shopping… And nothing is wrong with that. You can’t expect a honest business man to run a lucrative segment of his business away, because you don’t like it. And your comments are opinions and not qualified ones at that… I know for a FACT that a store (To remain unnamed, until I get the OK from management to be named.) in Pier Park reach 50% of their yearly sales budget from sales during March to spring breakers. Also, thirty guys takes a few cars to get here (gas), rented three houses (Electricity, water, trash, taxes, mortgage, etc), bought beer and food, etc. They contributed to our economy and the whole while enjoyed our beach even during the thirty mph wind at 40 degrees… not many families that I know would have enjoyed that!

Spring break is a valid and profitable market for Panama City Beach. Yes, we can improve the image but we shouldn’t simply run it off.

And again, I point to Destin during March… if droves of families go on vacation wouldn’t Destin market to them? Yet, Destin is still empty comparative to Panama City Beach during March. Also take into consideration, that Panama City Beach is seventeen miles long with spring break only covering about 20% of it, so that leaves a lot of quality and quiet beach for families to come to.



5 Bryan Durta May 19, 2008 at 8:16 am


You have made many good points, but I have a few concerns.

Could you explain what evidence you have to support “Destin is still empty comparative to Panama City Beach during March”? It is my understanding that Destin and South Walton have a very strong family, couple and winter resident market the entire month. And they also have college students visiting even though they seem to do nothing to specifically market to this group. Not marketing to college students and keeping them in the minority has an important benefit: It does not hurt their image and does not scare away families and couples. Why can’t we start doing the same. Sure we already have families and couples here during college spring break, but we could and need to have a lot more.

College spring break happens in PCB, Destin, Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami just to name a few. But the national media only talks about it being in PCB. Our government needs to start doing what every other destination in Florida has done and leave promotion of the group to private industry. We need to have a governmental policy that we do not specifically encourage college spring break, we do not make any estimates about the size of this group, and we do not make any comments about any financial impact. If we did this, my guess is that the national media would quit promoting us a a college spring break Mecca.

Also, I don’t understand what you mean by your claim that Destin does not market to families for March. Destin and South Walton market to families year round and it appears to be very successful. I see no reason why they would need to run a March-specific family marketing campaign.


6 Shell May 19, 2008 at 11:45 am


I’m sorry but do you even go to Destin during the off-peak season? Destin is packed with people all year compared to PCB which only makes money off of “seasonal” people. That includes college Spring Break which in my opinion does much more harm for PCB than good.


7 Bryan Durta May 19, 2008 at 12:20 pm

What are your thoughts about the sample size? The Klages Group interviewed 494 people during the entire January to March period. It appears that 1. The interviews were spread relatively equally over the three months; 2. Only a portion of the March interviews identified themselves as Spring Breakers; and 3. Only a portion of the Spring Breakers are College Spring Breakers, not families or couples here for their Spring Break.


8 Bryan Durta May 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Jason and Charles,
Mr. Klages was asked at the TDC/CVB meeting about why VPS/Valparaiso/Ft. Walton Beach airport was not included in the report. He advised that it is a survey choice,but it was not reported because the number of people responding VPS was statically insignificant.


9 RC May 19, 2008 at 2:38 pm


Don’t worry, you won’t ruffle my feathers. You obviously have a financial interest in a college spring break crowd and that is fine. I think you will find as PCB continues to grow and become more upscale your view will be more in the minority. Everyone has valid opinions, but the majority will eventually rule.



10 Bearabull May 20, 2008 at 6:43 am

VPS may not have been mentioned because a lot of people don’t realize it’s there. I bought in 2004 and just discovered this airport last year. VPS is now my choice because I can get to PCB non stop from Chicago and at the best rate.


11 Jason Koertge May 20, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I guess VPS is a local secret. We fly in and out of there all the time on business, and so does everyone we know. We rarely travel to Tallahassee and never travel to Pensacola.

As far as the sample size, I think 494 is a little lean. Assuming their data collection method is actually sitting down and interviewing someone, I would say that if you don’t have the time to get a larger size collection, spend some more money and hire more interviewers. We certainly paid them a pretty penny.

Then again, they are the professionals, maybe they’ve determined through experience that a sample of x for a population of y is all that is necessary.

Of course, your results will always be more accurate the more data you collect.


12 Joe May 27, 2008 at 8:27 am

It seems all anyone wants to talk about is dollars, with no mention of quality of life for residents. Has anyone studied how many spring breakers have bought condos or houses vs. families?


13 Roger May 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm

I don’t have a financial stake in this discussion. I am a businessman that travels to PCB every week. I have observed this discussion for the last 3 or 4 years. It is interesting to me that certain people in PCB keeps looking for reasons to encourage a LARGE part of the tourist that come, not to come back.
I stay in a hotel on the beach during spring break and during thunder beach. I see everything that is going on. I do not know this for sure but I would guess that of the ten biggest weeks for tourist on PCB, six are directly linked to college spring break.
If this is so, why would you discourage 60% of your business. I eat at some of the nicer places as well as the fast food places and college kids and bikers are at all of them.

To me it seems resonable to cater to anybody who wants to come to PCB. I have clients in the retail business in Destin and they say the retail business has been dead for almost a year. They say it is the worst in years. So, the argument of becomming a Destin does not hold water.

The hotels I stay in during spring break require a cash deposit. They tell me they actually make money with the charges they put on damages and take that from the deposits.

I just don’t understand the attitude of discouraging
college spring break. The college spring breakers are
the people who will be the top wage earners in 10,15, 20,25 and 30 years. They are the ones who will be able to afford to buy a condo at PCB in 25 years.
Yes, they go crazy while they are here but so do a lot of adults. This is a resort town.

I also do not understand the reason for a noice ordinance. Again, trying to discourage a large part of the business that is coming here.

I would guess that most of the ones against spring break and thunder beach are not business owners.

I say, instead of trying to do away with something, work together to make it even larger and better for the community.

I thought the survey was fair and showed positive signs for college spring break as well as for other spring breakers. I don’t think they have to be at odds with one another.