Fifteen years ago Destin started advertising their spring break as “spring splash,” a push to attract older more seasoned tourists, and with beaches to the west devastated because of Ivan and Panama City following Destin's lead, that strategy seems to have paid off.
Jessica Sanders used to spend her spring break on Panama City Beach, but now she prefers Destin.
“I was younger and I went for the spring break, but now that I'm getting a little older, I prefer more laid back surroundings and there's not much activity at night.”
She's not alone. The activity that has defined Panama City Beach for so long is pushing many spring breakers to Destin. Tourist development officials say reservations are up 15 percent over last year.
The Destin Holiday Inn says they are booked solid for the next three weeks, but some of that business can also be attributed to Pensacola Beach still recovering from Hurricane Ivan.
Okaloosa County sheriff's officials expect a crush of people over the coming months. They're warning drivers to allow extra time when using an already busy Highway 98.
Jessica's not surprised at why the area has become so popular.
“I've been coming here for five or six years and it’s a combination of the atmosphere; the beaches are beautiful, the shopping is wonderful.”
Without the crowds to the east and the reconstruction to the west, Destin sits and fits somewhere in the middle, and that's just where these folks like it.
Okaloosa County officials say they avoided recruiting the college crowd more as a business decision than anything else. Right now they see almost 92 percent repeat business. In comparison, Panama City Beach sees around 80 percent repeat business.