In what was supposed to be the best July we’ve ever experienced in Panama City Beach, threat of oil-covered sand and fear of ruined vacations kept visitor’s away. This summer was supposed to be the beginning of a new era in Panama City Beach tourism growth with high expectations from the performance of the new airport and the millions of dollars of extra marketing money that was being pumped into the awareness of our area. Local officials, organizations and industry leaders had literally been working up to this summer for years in anticipation of record breaking numbers; and it was all crushed by what some would call a series of blatant mistakes that could have easily been avoided.
June was bad, but could have been worse.
So, let’s dive right in. The first three cents of the June bed tax numbers seemed at the surface to be barely off from last year. There was a decline of 3.35%. I say barely with caution, knowing and understanding that any decline is considered catastrophic, and a decline of 3.35% actually equates to more than $1.3 million in missed revenue for the area. Tourism officials and industry leaders expected an increase this year over last year as high as 15%. And, taking that into consideration, if we had some crystal ball that could confirm that increase, that would equate to another $7 million for the area. Taking into consideration that as of July this year there were a total of 16,397 total units being reported on, that would be on average another $428 PER UNIT for the month of June that might have been expected had we had no oil threat.
July was catastrophic.
July numbers were released last Friday and as quoted by the News Herald, tourism officials and industry leaders were hit with the news like a sledgehammer hitting a pile of glass. Everyone knew their wallets were hurting, but no one knew just how bad it was across the board. In Panama City Beach, the bed tax dollars that were collected on the first three cents during the month of July in 2009 was $1,386,626.85. The July numbers for 2010 were a staggering 14.78% less, at $1,181,617.71. That 14.78% decline was equal to $205,009.13 in missed bed tax collections on the first three cents and a total of $6.8 million in missed revenue for the entire area. Now, if we were to whip out our crystal ball like we did in the previous paragraph and assume we were to see a 15% increase this July over July 2009, then we actually missed 29.78% in revenue. This near 30% would have equated to $413,000 in increased bed tax revenue and an additional $13 million in revenue this year over what we actually received. This $13 million would have been another $840 per unit in July in Panama City Beach, with an estimated 16,397 units reporting.
Another day, another dollar. . . lost.
At the end of the day, there was truly some missed opportunity this summer that was a direct result of a huge series of mistakes that were made in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though all summer long, our beached remained pristine and remarkable, our waters warm and clean, huge dollars were kept away from our area our of fear and speculation. We, at PCBDaily did what we could do to keep the awareness of what the beach conditions were really like, but it wasn’t enough. Tourists by the thousands, stayed away from here out of fear. This summer was a wash, even with all the immensely great things we had going for us. Next summer, barring any natural (or unnatural) cataclysmic events is now slated to be the best summer we’ve ever had. With this summer behind us, industry leaders are planning for next year and are anxiously awaiting to see numbers like never before.