Miles of white sand and blue water doesn't only describe Panama City Beach, it's the same picture in South Walton. And people looking for a beach vacation are starting to notice. South Walton beaches are becoming a popular tourist destination for the Spring and Summer seasons. The numbers don't lie, condos and hotels were fully booked for the month of February and they are preparing for what may be the busiest tourist season yet.
Walton County is quickly climbing the list of hottest Spring Break destinations. Each year, the County feels better prepared than the last. Tourism Development Council Director Jim Bagby said, "we've worked really hard with the people particularly on Scenic Gulf Drive and also on 30A so we have a little better enforcement of the trash police."
Suzanne Harris is the President of the Edgewater Beach Resort Homeowners Association and said, "we're full and our numbers from January until now are way ahead of last year and our numbers for April are very good and May is good so all of our rentals have been good so far."
It may be the best year yet. Bagby said, "oh it's going great, last year we had a record year and this year I think we are going to have another record year."
But the Tourism Development Council wants to emphasize one thing, "we don't market to Spring Breakers per say, we market to families. We don't advertise Spring Break as an event or occurrence like some of the other destinations in the area. We try to be the family friendly destination."
And even those that depend on tourists with disposable income agree. Harris said, "I think word spread very fast that Walton County was a family place and we did not tolerate college kids and underage drinking and tearing peoples homes up".
On the other hand, nobody can argue the benefit the Spring Breakers bring. "As long as everyone is behaving it's great for this area", said Harris. And Bagby added, "we couldn't have the things we have without the tourists".
Also emphasizing the family friendly environment, the Walton County Sheriff's Office arrested 72 Spring Breakers this past weekend for underage drinking.