Kaoru Chikushi from HVS International wrote a piece on Panama City Beach that was published on HospitalityNet.org 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.