This past weekend was probably one of the biggest weekends Panama City Beach has ever seen. I speak not in magnitude of tourist dollars being spent, but in global fame enjoying the same amenities that hundreds of thousands enjoy every year. Regardless of opinion of the visitors, Panama City Beach is definitely on the map now. Panama City Beach was THE Presidential buzz last weekend.
Although this trip was intended to be purely a recreational vacation for the Obama family, the President spent time with local business and tourism leaders to hear first-hand how the oil spill crisis has effected our area. Stating that his administration would not slacken their efforts to clean up the damage the Deep Horizon Oil Spill crisis has caused, President Obama seemed to have a grasp of how this crisis has damaged our area during the peak season months.
Panama City Beach actually saw very little environmental impact from the Gulf oil spill that occurred at the Deep Water Horizon oil well late April. With only a few days of very scattered tarballs coming ashore, the total amount of product that washed ashore in Panama City Beach was a drop in the bucket compared to other areas and what pessimists were predicting. But, the true impact we experienced was a damaged perception of what it was like down here, and a huge element of unpredictability of what it would be like during the future planned vacation of tens of thousands of prospective tourists. People were canceling vacations based on fear, not wanting to risk their non-refundable deposits on the possibility that oil could be here when they arrived.
The First Family enjoyed normal things any other family would enjoy while they were here. Grant it, they did it presidential style, with swarms of secret service agents all around them, going before and after them at each place they stopped to clear and de-clear everything. One local restaurant, By The Sea Resorts’ Barefoot Beach Club even created an Obamabuger for the weekend’s event. The First Family even played a round of mini-golf at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf on Front Beach Road with Sasha hitting a hole in one on the first hole in the round. Her dad, the President followed suit a few holes later with his own hole in one. Sasha and First Lady, Michelle Obama hit Wonderworks Sunday morning.
Staying at the Bay Point Marriott, the First Family wasn’t able to take a dip in the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Cloudy and rainy weather actually kept the family inside more than they wanted and I’m sure security was a huge factor in their lack of spending vacation time on the beach. But they did, however, take a dip in St. Andrew’s Bay, off of Alligator Point, enjoying the season’s warm waters.
All in all, the presidential visit to Panama City Beach was more press than our local tourism board could have ever purchased with national media reported all over the country the President’s weekend antics. Large and small news anchors alike were talking about the details of what the First Family was eating, seeing and doing while they were in our personal paradise. When it comes to global recognition for our area, the President is welcome here anytime. Thanks for coming Mr. President.
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