Hurricane Ian could impact snowbird season in Panama City Beach

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The chilly weather is a small reminder that our northern visitors will soon be knocking at the door. The Sunshine State has always been a hot spot for those living in colder climates to vacation in the winter. But with Hurricane Ian temporarily wiping out many of the popular destinations in Southwest Florida, tourism officials said they’re expecting an uptick in areas open and ready such as the panhandle.

Just as things start slowing down in Panama City Beach, snowbirds come flocking in for the winter.

“Those northerners, they do not want to stay up there. It’s cold up there already. So they don’t want to stay,” Mugsy Parens, President of the Panama City Beach Senior Center, said. “I see a lot of different license plates coming right now and they’re all from up north.”

Typically, we aren’t the only ones seeing new faces this time of year. But the destruction Hurricane Ian left behind down south, also left little to no room for visitors as recovery efforts are underway.

Tourism leaders in Fort Myers told NewsChannel 7 in a statement, “We’re still assessing damage to our industry partners and what impact it will have on room availability for visitors. I can tell you that the available rooms are currently are being prioritized for the many people in the area helping us with immediate needs (first responders, insurance adjusters, contractors, etc.), as well as temporary lodging for people who were displaced by the storm. While we don’t have specifics about when we’ll be in a better position for room availability, I assure you’ll we’ll do our best to communicate conditions and availability as information become available.”

It’s a climb we hiked in our area after Hurricane Michael.

“I mean like when it hit here, that wiped out our snowbird season,” Parens said.

Parens said they’re anticipating those who usually head south to stop and stay closer to us this year.

“I think that that’s what’s going to happen you know we’re going to get a lot more people,” Parens said. “They’re going to come to Florida and they’re going to be searching around for someplace different.”

The road to recovery in Southwest Florida will not be a quick one. But if our community in the panhandle has learned anything, it is that you can build back better and come back stronger.

Tourism leaders with Visit Florida have been working to promote other areas of the state that are also ready to welcome visitors, while communities in Southwest Florida slowly work to get back on their feet. They launched an entire marketing campaign last week explaining how they plan to maintain tourism in the area.

Copyright 2022 WJHG. All rights reserved.