You wouldn’t know it to step outside, but spring break is upon us.
The Tourist Development Council worked hard over the past year to spread the word of the area and bring more visitors to Gulf County to relax on the beaches or enjoy the local flavor. Area vacation rentals are up for spring break both in returning guests and new blood.
“Since 2011 there’s been a 20 percent increase in reservations each year,” said Adam White, marketing director at Gulf Coast Vacation Rentals. “We’re going to have a really killer spring break and lead in to summer.”
White said he’s seen a rise in the number of returning guests, currently making up 55 percent of rentals through the agency. The anticipation of traffic over March and April follows a busy winter where White said that GCVR properties were “booked solid.”
Alyson Gerlach, owner of Pristine Properties said that bookings for spring break were slow to start due to the bad winter weather conditions in other regions.
Some school districts chose to make up snow days over spring break leading to many families making their plans at the last minute. Of their current books, 35 percent were returning guests.
In the past three years alone, Gerlach said she has seen double-digit growth in the spring break months.
Property bookings through Pristine Properties rose 30 percent from 2011-12 and another 17 percent into 2013. She said that she hoped to see the number continue to rise. She said that most of their properties with pools were quickly booked.
“Last year was a banner year for us,” said Gerlach. “Spring break is a chance for families to get away from all the craziness and relax at the beach, but it’s a busy time for us.”
White said that most visitors to Gulf County are still coming from Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, though he noted that Alabama, a new target of the TDC’s marketing efforts, is also on the rise.
White has also seen increased web traffic from Iowa and Ohio. He said that top search queries that turn into Gulf County guests include “Forgotten Coast” and “pet friendly.”
“What our guests love about the area is the family and pet-friendly atmosphere,” said White. “They like that they’re not inundated with the larger crowds of Panama City.
“It’s isolated and has that old Florida feel.”
Gerlach also reported popularity with residents from Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky but added that she had seen a large rise in interest from guests who call Indiana home.
White attributes the increase in visitors and web traffic to higher use of social media by guests and the work that the TDC has been doing online to build awareness for Gulf County.
As spring break continues and new faces arrive in Gulf County, do your part to show them why it’s always great to wake up in paradise.