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More and more people are wanting to take a trip to the Emerald Coast

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 5:20 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s evident our region is growing and growing fast.

“Different atmosphere, I have seen other beaches in Florida this one is totally different. I like it very much. I mean, compared to the other beaches that I was used to in Florida,” Tennessee Native Lavestiney Maldonado said.

The website Simply Flying ranked Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) fourth in the U.S. of airports with the most growth since the pandemic.

Since 2019, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport increased capacity by more than 58 percent. ECP is among 192 U.S. airports that have more capacity now than before the pandemic.

Airport Executive Director Parker McClellan has a theory on how the pandemic played a role.

“As a result of the leadership provided by the governor and our legislature as well as our community leaders have kept our city, our beaches everything open and the state open. That has made a huge difference in people wanting to come to our community, and there is pent-up demand,” McClellan said.

Airport officials say a lot of new visitors like here it here so much, they plan to stay permanently.

“We see a lot of return visitors, which are always great. I like to call that the conversion rate, how many people are going to convert from another beach to come to ours. But there are a lot of people realizing what a great place it is in northwest Florida and what a great place it is to live, work and play,” McClellan said.

McClellan tells us, while things are getting busy, the airport can still handle the traffic.

“We are going to work hard at accommodating the demand we have and then wait and see what next year looks like before we jump in and make a lot of changes. We want to make sure these levels are not artificially stimulated,” McClellan said.

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