Irma's affect on fall tourism in Panama City Beach

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Hurricane Irma swept across parts of the Panhandle, but some say it left very minimal signs of damage.

"They say there's like a bubble around Panama City," Sarina Kinlaw said. Kinlaw works at Coco Locos near the city pier in Panama City Beach.

"We had a lot of people come here from South Florida and parts of Orlando even," Kinlaw said.

Kinlaw and others in the tourism industry say they're thankful Irma didn't have a greater impact on the area.

"We barely had just a little storm and now it's a beautiful day," Bella Clark, an employee at Smiles Beach Photo said. "It feels great outside."

Tourism officials say storms or natural disasters have the potential to really hit the tourism industry negatively.

In the past hurricanes Opal, Ivan, and Dennis have all done that. More recently there was Hurricane Hermine.

"Other than canceling Gulf Coast Jam we didn't see a lot of direct impacts from that," Dan Rowe, President of Visit Panama City Beach said.

Rowe says revenue in September has increased by almost 80 percent since 2010.

"We had a great weekend of business coming anyway," Rowe said, "you know, because one of the things about September is it's one of the best months of the year to be here."

"Usually the prices are reduced and people are more lenient on commission-based jobs just so they can make some money," Clark said.

"I hope that people come here in the Fall. It's still beautiful. We still have a lot of things to offer here in the Fall as well," Kinlaw said.

Officials with Visit Panama City Beach say they prepare for storms with the beach re-nourishment project. It helps make sure the beach is in great shape before heavy waves and strong winds can lead to erosion.