Panama City Beach Needs more Branded Hotels

by May 26, 2008 • 6 comments

Kaoru Chikushi from HVS International wrote a piece on Panama City Beach that was published on titled The Need for More Branded Hotels in Panama City Beach, Florida.

You should read it, but I’ll summarize it here.

Chikushi estimates that approximately 7 million visit Panama City Beach each year with around 250,000 spring breakers and 15,000 “snowbirds”. Again, not sure where the numbers came from, but 250,000 sounds much more realistic that the “millions” others in the media tout.

I was glad to see Chikushi references Panama City Beach as “once known as the Redneck Riviera” and describes our area as being in an “era of transformation.” Signaled by the new airport and Pier Park, she finds justification in Panama City being named the #1 place to own real estate in the next 5 years (the Business 2.0 article).

In her article, she states that the Panama City Airport is the highest-priced of the 19 commercially serviced airports and has the shortest commercial runway in the state of Florida. The new airport will bring approximately 14,000 new jobs, an estimated $449 million in new operating revenue and around 500,000 additional visitors to the area. She quotes that it is estimated that there are not enough accommodations to accommodate this much of an increase in our visitors. The growth the new airport will bring is “reason # 1” that we need to attract more “branded hotels.”

The author mentions Coastal Vision 3000 in their efforts to create a brand identity for our area and attract low-fare airlines. As evidence of growth, Chikushi references the launch of AirTran Airways’ service at the Charleston International Airport in 2007 stating that Google plans to spend $600 million on a new data center within 20 miles from the airport.

This is what we are talking about when we say the airport will bring huge opportunity for other industries to expand to here. With affordable and easy transportation in and out of our area, big companies will realize this is a great area in which to expand.

“Reason # 2” that we need to attract more branded hotels to our area is that we have new tourism attractions. There is mention of two things here, Pier Park (obviously) and The Towne of Seahaven. I know Seahaven could be considered a “tourism attraction”, but I’m not sure why it is falling under this category with the nature of the article, as this particular tourism attraction has built in accommodations.

This whole article brings up an interesting point. What are we doing to attract branded hotels? The trend here for developers has been to build highrise condos, but what about the true resorts? The closest thing that I’ve seen to what I’ve experienced in Hawaii is Splash, and (although it is awesome), all it has is a little waterpark on the ground floor overlooking the beach. Are we waiting for a flag hotel brand to approach us? Why would it be a good deal for them? Would they even approach us? Could we organize some incentive to get a few big names here? There are several large-scale options when it comes to beach front property available, thinking of Solimar, Legacy, C Beach, etc. It has to be a good deal, but we need to be proactive with this. I’m sure we have local talent that is capable of structuring something like this.

Back to the article. I wonder what the motivation for this article was.

The Need for More Branded Hotels in Panama City Beach, Florida.

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1 steve May 27, 2008 at 5:32 am

Mariott’s Baypoint is a large branded resort . . the place is huge and will become more “noticed”, as they never wanted to be associated with PCB. However, as we go from redneck to polo, that will change.


2 Don May 27, 2008 at 11:10 am

Will more hotels be a plus, or a minus? To attract business – maybe. The big question is not how to attract more development of places to stay, but how to fill the condos that are already built.

This is a problem for the entire area, not just PC. Unless it is solved for the entire area there will not be a solution for any our our areas. That forces us to compete with each other, and neither of us win.

We all need to work together for the betterment of all.


3 Jason Koertge May 27, 2008 at 7:50 pm

The writer of the article submits that the airport will bring an additional 500,000 visitors a year here and that our current accommodations offerings (condos included) will not be enough for everyone.


4 Michael June 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I have to say we do have some big name hotels here. Don’t forget about Choice Hotels. And we just got our first true bussiness style hotel MainStay Suites. And American Owned hotel who is going to build 3 hotels on the beach inculding a new brand of Hyatt. SO I think the process has started but there is no demand for it. And beachfront land is way over priced for hotels to build there.


5 Charles Gargus June 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Ms Chikuski’s article points out an interesting phenomenon we are seeing appear in older resort areas nationwide. In many cases the land values have made the high rise condo projects the only viable use of such land. In areas with new condo projects coming on line certainly the expectations of travelers are met with the beauty and splendor of new facilities. As development of new condo projects may diminish in an area and existing projects begin to age, then we often see travelers expectations turn to dissappointment as those developments may lack the required renovations and maintenance standards of most hotel/resort franchises.

As a travel and tourism professional I find myself (and family) searching for the “known standards and level of services” associated with both upscale and business class hotels. In many areas we have been greatly disappointed by aging condo projects and individual owned resorts. In these referenced areas we find the exact situation Ms Chikuski’s article suggest and warns us of: Older condo units and a lack of franchised hotel/resort facilities with strict maintenance and renovation standards.

Certainly, as Ms Chikuski points out, the market in PC is hot and will likely remain so for the forseeable future. Quality rooms and condo projects will remain available for the forseeable future here. At some point in the future the waterfront land will be built, at some point in the future those projects will age, and at some point in the future travelers will again long for the strict renovation, maintenance and service standards of the franchised properties.

While none of this rises to the level of a call to arms for some type action in PC, it is an interesting concept that points out the challenges any resort town may face as it balances out immediate financial windfalls of development with the wise use of its resources for years down the road.

With a slight grin on my face I have to chuckle a little and realize that once again our markets and demand will always correct most any errors we may make in community planning. For now PC, enjoy the great period of growth and revitalization that contines to knock on your door! It is coming together beautifully. If adjustment and addition of franchised facilities are needed for the area then no doubt the market and demand will drive it. With that said, and even with the expectations of the new airport not considered, Ms Chikuski’s article is right on point.


6 Don June 5, 2008 at 10:12 am

I just hope that a building of additional places for tourist to stay will be based on true need, not speculation as was the case for condos. Hopefully the new airport will bring the number of tourist the article states, but for this to happen the area needs to consider additional entertainment options for the guests. Any suggestions for this?