Increasing Tourism Year-Round for Panama City Beach

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - The tourism season is over and that means less people will be on these flights at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

Local business leaders like Buddy Wilkes of Shipwreck Island say the high prices at the airport may be keeping people away during the off season.

"When you're online trying to buy airline tickets and you find out you're at $515 a ticket versus $201 a ticket, out of panama city and when you're buying a couple of tickets, it adds up to a lot of money," said Wilkes.

Airport officials say they're constantly talking with airline carriers to keep rates affordable.

"The rates that are here are competitive throughout the region. Sometimes they're higher, sometimes they're not. It depends on the destination and those are all determined again by the airlines," said Executive Director of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, Parker McClellan.

They also say they're trying to work on bringing more people to the airport.

"Obviously we'd love everybody to fly in, but there's large drive markets, anywhere from about 5 hours. So that's something we have to look at," said McClellan.

Monday afternoon, Congressman Steve Southerland and airport officials took a tour of the facility. He and other community leaders are trying to figure out how to increase tourism year round for the area.

"We've got to make sure that we market the entire Northwest Florida sector, not just Panama City. This airport is truly a regional effort," said Representative Southerland.

Representative Southerland says it will be a community effort to give the area a tourism boost.

Airport officials say Northwest Florida Beaches International could be expanding to appeal to Europeans as a way to increase tourism.