Summer Gas Price Projections Encourage Travel

Flashbacks of 2008 gas prices chilled spines throughout Memorial Day weekend as costs jumped at the pump from the $2.20 national average. The popular Circle K, at the entrance of the Strip on Front Beach topped out at $2.49 for regular unleaded for the weekend, 13 cents higher than the weekend’s national average of $2.36. Still, that’s $1.44 a gallon cheaper than a year ago when fears of an oil shortage sent energy prices soaring. Cheaper gas means more driving, which bodes well for the Panama City Beach’s summer tourism season.

Last summer’s oil shortage cut 2008 travel significantly. Recently released Energy Department data says, November to November last year, U.S. motorists drove 53.2 billion fewer miles than they did over the same period a year earlier. Gas prices in 2008 affected travelers deeply. GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media polls showed 54 percent of Americans cut back travel in 2008 because of gas prices. But, the Energy Information Administration’s April 2009 report says retail prices for April through September in 2009 are projected to average $2.23/gallon. With that 40% decrease in the cost of gas, 2009 summer travel should see a significant boost.

AAA travel and auto group forecasted a 1.5 percent rise in travel compared with 2008 for the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of the traditional summer driving season. The trend is expected to continue during the major summer travel holidays of the Fourth of July and Labor Day as lower fuel prices resuscitate the sensibility for folks to take a vacation.

If these predictions hold true, Panama City Beach should be a huge beneficiary of the travel trend. Drivers to Panama City Beach this Memorial Day weekend said the gas prices definitely impact their travel plans. “Gas prices change everything,” said Cindy Matheny, who drove to the Panama City Beach from Troy, Alabama to enjoy the weekend. She, with a car packed with kids, filled the tank of her van at the Chevron on the corner of North Lagoon and Joan Avenue. “We’ve come to Panama City Beach every summer. The price of gas determines how many trips we’ll take. You really have to weigh your options these days. Gas is still cheaper than last year and this economy needs the help.”

TDC ditches their brains, gets bested by competition

Perhaps this post isn’t necesary, but I feel it prudent to underscore Bryan’s comments and insight into the current actions of the TDC.

An interesting point is brought up, and that point is: why are we just now discussing the budget?

We had all summer with little or almost no activity regarding public TDC meetings.  It seems that there was ample time to discuss these issues and more.  Is there a reason the TDC meetings come virtually to a halt during the summer months?  This is the time we need to be discussing everything and making changes on the fly as needed.

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Dr. Ed Wright, WestBayFlorida Blog – Last Post

Dr. Ed Wright, former Dean of FSU-PC and authority on the whole West Bay area, including economic development and the airport relocation, has posted his last post and article on his WestBayFlorida Blog.

I could summarize, but I could never duplicate the effect of the writing itself. Below is the last post, and below is his last article, The Future – It’s More Than Building a New Airport.

Ed, you’ll be sorely missed in our area and online.

I quote in its entirety:

I owe you all an apology for being AWOL for so long.

It’s not that there wasn’t any news – there certainly was. I had expected to take a short hiatus over Christmas and New Years and to think about a new direction for the newsletter focusing on the broader issues of economic development and the need to build a regional identity and marketing approach now that airport construction has gotten underway.

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The Future: It's More Than Building a New Airport

Again, I quote in its entirety, from Ed Wright:

As construction of the new airport proceeds on schedule, it is clear that we need to get busy putting all the other pieces of this jigsaw puzzle together. Approval of the airport relocation was key to approaching the vision for the West Bay Sector Plan and to realize its many different benefits to the region.

The following are thoughts about just some of the things that need to be underway:

The preservation of West Bay, by setting aside nearly 40,000 acres of conservation land, established a remarkable and unparallel public-private partnership and opportunity.

  • Currently the leading edge of this conservation effort is the planned Audubon Nature Center. The communities of Bay and Walton Counties and businesses and residents need to get behind the Audubon Society’s efforts to make this world-class Nature Center a reality. It has enormous potential for education, reputation, conservation, tourism, and (yes) economic development as well.

A coordinated growth and land use plan for development that involves the counties adjacent to Bay County and contiguous to the West Bay Sector Plan is needed.

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Jerry Ray Discusses New Airport on

Jerry Ray, the Senior Vice President for Strategic Alliances for the St. Joe Company, was interviewed this week on the HomeAwayPodcast site. The topic of discussion was the new airport and what it is going to do for our area.

Jerry starts by giving an account of the history of St. Joe and where it all began. He continues by giving the history of the airport relocation project, how it all started and discusses the process it has gone through thus far.

You can listen to it by downloading it, or listen to it online.

Letter from Delta – "sharp economic downturn"

Last week as I was on vacation, Delta sent a letter to frequent flyers, warning that we will see a “sharp economic downturn because of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices.”

The rest of the email reads:

Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we can all do something to help now.

For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs and severe reductions in air service to both large and small communities. To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower activity and widespread economic pain. This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our customers.

Click the more link to read the rest of the letter.

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High Fuel Prices + Major Airlines + Weak Economy = Catastrophe

I came across this paper talking about the effects of record high fuel prices could have on the US Airline industry.

The title actually reads: Record-high Fuel Prices +Major U.S. Airlines + Weakened U.S. Economy = A Catastrophe. I shortened it to save space.

The paper talks about an top energy analyst at Goldman Sachs is predicting that we’ll see oil at $200 a barrel within 24 months. With the price of oil twice what it was just a year ago and 4 times as much as it was in 2000, the price of oil rising is certain to have significant effects on the United States Airline industry.

In 2000, the cost of fuel was around 15% of the average airline total operating cost. Today, it is around 40% of the average airline total operating cost. This is greater than the cost of labor or the cost of plane leases.

Click the more link for a link to the entire paper.

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Crist OKs State Funding Allocation for the Panama City Airport

On Wednesday, Governor Charlie Crist signed a $66 billion budget that included $12 million for the construction of the new Panama City Bay County International Airport and the road that connects it from Highway 388.

The Panhandle Citizens Coalition had written a letter to Crist explaining why he should veto the funding for the new airport citing, as reported by the News Herald, that the airport was voted against in a non-binding referendum and that it has been under litigation.

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