In Tuesday’s TDC meeting the thin audience listened in on a comprehensive presentation of the Klages Group’s spring report. The report, drawing data from 8500 units across Panama City Beach and interviewing around 800 or so people for the months of March, April and May, included hard data from average daily rates, visitor profiles and a survey of behavioral and motivational aspects of visitors. As it stated, Panama City Beach’s total economic impact over the aforementioned months yielded $261,385,914.00, up from last year’s $247 mil. While some numbers were down, like overall occupancy down 1.2%, ADR was up about a dollar from 2008 and the number of nights stayed went up nearly 7%. In our primary market of the Southeast, Panama City Beach saw a huge increase visitation up 27% while the Midwest dropped slightly in 2009 from 2008’s 94,800 visits to 91,400. One particularly interesting drop was the European market which saw a decline from 6.7% to 3.9%; a steep drop that leaves room for improvement. Dr. Klages, who presented the report, expressed the potential for the European market was strong with the new airport coming on line. Overall, Panama City Beach saw a large increase of visitors during spring, jumping from 2008’s 282,200 visitors to 2009’s 302,000 visitors.
Comparably, the rest of the state did not fare as well. In the most recent Smith Travel report, quoted in the Klages report, cities like Naples saw occupancy drop 15% and ADR drop nearly 8%. Miami saw a 9.5% drop in occupancy and an 11.2% decline in ADR. This trend was seen all over the state in destinations like Orlando, Sarasota and Clearwater. Overall, the state of Florida saw a 5.4% drop in occupancy and an 11 drop in ADR.
Other data shown in the report drew concern and disbelief from the board. The report stated that during spring Panama City Beach had an 89.9% approval rating as well as nearly 70% of visitors during spring were families or couples with only just over 10% visitors reported as singles. Mr. Buddy Wilkes acknowledged the incredulity saying, “I have some concerns about these numbers.” Dr. Klages did address the concerns stating that the interviewed could not be younger than 18 or in a state of intoxication.
Most surprising was that the tone of the Klages report proved far different than the recent Y Partnership focus groups. While Klages data showed Panama City Beach as a friendly, beautiful and prosperous community, Y Partnership’s focus group painted Panama City Beach as an underwhelming destination below the quality of nearby destinations like Destin and Gulf Shores. Still, in both reports, Panama City Beach was shown to be doing economically better than most communities throughout the state. Mayor Oberst underscored that point saying, “I think we have a lot to be thankful for.”
A question of potential carriers at the new airport arose, causing a wave of coy smiles to sweep across the board although no carrier was named. Dan Rowe did say that we can expect an announcement 6 – 7 months prior to the airport’s opening. Andy Phillips went on to say, “We are in the 11th hour and it’s critical that we have some unification. [Carriers] want this to be a regional effort, not just Bay County.”
The Fall Marketing Campaign, which was originally to be themed “Fall in Love…With Panama City Beach,” has been changed to “Never-ending Summer.” Mr. Wilkes, the lone dissenter in the campaign said, “It sounds like more of the same: more traffic and more people just like summer. The most important thing is to sell our value. The fall is much quieter and cooler and we have value that can compete with anyone in the world.”
After persuasions from Mr. Rowe, it looks like “Never-ending Summer” will be the theme.Print Story