Motels Booking Up, Thanks to Frances

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With Hurricane Frances setting its sights on Florida, people are getting out of the way. Instead of staying in Orlando or Daytona Beach, they're coming to Panama City Beach.

Tourism leaders are welcoming them with open arms on the last big holiday of the 2004 summer season.

"The Convention and Visitor's Bureau has taken several calls on people who are leaving from down south and the east coast. We're certainly prepared to take as many as we can," said Bob Warren, head of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
Some motels in Panama City Beach are already full and haven't experienced many cancellations due to Frances. Others, like the Palmetto Motel, can't wait to get the extra visitors. With Frances looming, bookings at The Palmetto went from more than 90-percent to just 50-percent.

“We've had several reservations and check-ins today for people leaving Daytona, Cocoa Beach, even Orlando, that are checking-in today," said Rick Hughes, who owns the Palmetto Motel.

Jim Wright is one of those people. He and his wife rode out Hurricane Charley in Port Orange, which is right next to Daytona Beach. Wright says one hurricane is enough.

"We ended up with not much damage on our house but a lot of houses in the area got blown away, so we decided not to take any chances because this one's supposed to be a lot worse than Charlie was."

Right now, tourism leaders are preparing for the worst, while getting ready for a holiday weekend they hope doesn't put a damper on the end of the 2004 tourist season.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed. We'll be monitoring the storm very, very closely," said Warren.