It's been another banner year for tourism in Panama City Beach, according to the tourist development council. Numbers are once again up across the board, but there's one number that really sticks out - 4.
At Wednesday's Economic Development Alliance meeting, it was announced that Panama City Beach was 4th - behind Orlando, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale - in the ranking of the top leisure destinations in the state. That is according to a study by Visit Florida, the state's official consumer web site.
"We have some of the best visitors, those folks that have fallen in love with Panama City Beach," said Dan Rowe, executive director of the TDC.
And Rowe says they keep coming back, despite the immense challenges the beach has faced over the past five years, like 2008's gas crisis
"We had sky high gas prices for the first time, but Panama City Beach grew," Rowe said. "We saw more visitors spending that summer."
Rowe says that 2009's economic crisis also affected many tourism destinations, but Panama City Beach saw an increase in visitor spending.
Then there's the crisis most fresh in everyone's mind - 2010's BP oil spill. Rowe says the area was on track for even more growth before the disaster. While it was hit hard, the beach was still standing.
"We saw our tourist development tax collections, which equates to lodging revenue for the entire year of 2010, only fall by 1.8 percent,"
And for the past few years, Rowe says the beach has been back on track and setting records. Now all eyes are looking towards the future. The TDC has set out a strategic plan that includes developing the beach as year round destination, and establishing public venues.
"Through that diversification, we'll have a stronger economy and we'll be able to build to the future," Rowe said.