College students, come on down!
That’s the attitude of Gulf Coast hotels, restaurants, t-shirt shops and other tourism-dependent businesses that are keeping their fingers crossed student revelers and other vacationers will soon arrive en masse to the white sand beaches ready to spend some spring break cash.
After last summer’s disastrous oil spill wrecked the summer season, especially along the Alabama Gulf coast and Florida Panhandle, business owners there hope better—much better—days are ahead. The tar balls are gone, the beaches are pristine, and the shrimp has been tested and declared to be clean and safe to eat.
Early signs are encouraging. Ticket package sales on Expedia to Panama City Beach, Fla., for March are up by 156 percent compared to last year, a spokesman reported to the Associated Press. Panama City is one of the top spring break spots in the region for college students.
As we reported a while back, the winter snowbird season was encouraging, with bookings at normal or better over the previous winter season (which was prior to the oil blowout that first erupted in April).
A spring break boom this year would hopefully signal a promising summer, which is high season for Gulf Coast tourism, when the businesses there make their real money.
A major tourism marketing effort is underway targeting colleges and universities in the South and Midwest, hoping to lure students to come down for the fun, sun and seafood of the Gulf Coast—and it appears to be paying off. Some of the hotels in Panama City Beach are already full for the prime spring break weeks.
As many would say, it’s about time this region caught a break.