PANAMA CITY BEACH — Panama City Beach is in limbo.
The beach gave a chilly welcome to its first major wave of spring breakers this weekend, and also said goodbye to many snowbirds who flocked to the Panhandle for the winter months.
But Bay County Tourist Development Council Director Dan Rowe said more and more snowbirds are electing to stay through the spring, making March the most dynamic month in terms of visitors.
“We will have snowbirds that will stay all the way through March into early April,” Rowe said. “Over the next month, we’ll have our friends from the upper Midwest and Canada as well as thousands of young people.”
Thanks to condominiums and hotels that market specifically to spring breakers, Rowe said winter residents have an opportunity to avoid the mayhem at the more quiet resorts.
The Holiday Inn Resort on Front Beach Road is not one of those places.
Marketing manager Nicole Steinman said the hotel will be sold out almost every day in March, with Spring Break bookings for this year ahead of 2012.
“We’re going to be slam packed. It’s going to be a very busy Spring Break,” Steinman said. “With Easter being early this year, it’s all condensed in the month of March.”
Promoters anticipate more than 500,000 college students will visit Panama City Beach this Spring Break, with the busiest week of the season expected March 9 through 16.
“Talking to members in the lodging community, they’re very encouraged by the Spring Break numbers,” Rowe said. “We’re looking forward to a great spring.”
This year, the Holiday Inn will be hosting poolside parties sponsored by big brands like Red Bull energy drinks, Australian Gold sunscreen and Marley’s Mellow Mood Tea.
“We have a lot of fun with our breakers,” Steinman said. “As long as you manage Spring Break well, it’s a great event.”
Steinman also said cold temperatures do not diminish a breaker’s fun.
“We heat our pools, and we have an oversized hot tub… when you’re coming from Michigan and other Northern states where they’ve got snow stacked up, this isn’t going to be bad for them,” Steinman said. “They may have to wear hooded sweatshirts over their bikinis, but it’s by no means puffy coat and snow boot weather.”
Like other major Spring Break resorts in the area, Steinman said the Holiday Inn has also been working with the Panama City Beach Police Department to make sure their security teams are well-trained. The resort has also hired off-duty officers for larger events.
While the lingering snowbirds may stay away from Spring Break hot spots like the Holiday Inn and super clubs like Club La Vela and Spinnaker on Thomas Drive, Rowe said the groups do come together.
“One of the great places where everyone comes together in the afternoons and evenings is Pier Park,” Rowe said. “You’ll see families with children, college kids and winter residents all having a great time together.”