Though Panama City Beach remains a destination of choice for residents in the Southeast United States, local tourism industry leaders have learned a small but rapidly growing marketing opportunity exists in Europe and Russia. The Bay County Tourist Development Council directors heard the results from the initial six-month survey period at their meeting last week. In his presentation, Dr. Walter Klages analyzed the findings from 981 in-depth interviews with vacationers at the Beach during the past two quarters. The findings included:
• The Beach remains predominantly a “drive” market, with 77.7 percent of visitors between October and December coming by car and only 20.2 percent arriving by airplane. For spring breakers, the numbers were even higher, with 90.5 percent driving and only 6.8 percent flying.
• Given the rapid turnover in college students, Klages said it was not surprising to learn 51.4 percent of spring breakers reported it was their first time visiting the Beach. That contrasts sharply with winter visitors between October and December, of whom only 37 percent said it was their first visit.
• The Beach generally received high marks from all visitors on their level of satisfaction with visiting here. Nearly 88 percent of winter visitors between October and December described themselves as satisfied or very satisfied. This dropped slightly to 81.4 percent for visitors here between January and March. However, the breakout for March visitors showed spring breakers registering the highest satisfaction rate at 91.9 percent, while 79.9 percent of non-breaker tourists said the same.
• Klages’s survey confirmed the primary market for the Beach remains the Southeast and Midwest, with 31.3 percent and 29.4 percent of total visitation coming from those two areas respectively. However, Canada, with 6.2 percent of overall visitors, and Europe, with 3.3 percent, portend a potential future marketing target, particularly if the Canadian dollar and euro remain strong against the U.S. dollar, Klages said. The European respondents not only were from Western Europe and Scandinavia, but also Eastern Europe and Russia.
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