Panama City Beach hotel boom

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It may seem like new hotels are popping up all over the area, and that's because many are.

As more events draw more people to Panama City Beach, the need for more places to accommodate them is on the rise.

"There was about a ten-year period where we didn't see a lot of growth and that was during some of the economic challenges during the great recession after Deepwater Horizon spill, the aftermath of that, but now that all of that is in the past we're starting to see the boom again," Visit Panama City President and CEO Dan Rowe said.

What used to be mom and pop hotels and motels are now turning into name brand hotels along the beach.

"When the value of the land on the beach was a couple million bucks you could afford to have a two-story hotel, mom and pop motel. Now the values are in multi-million dollars per acre. It just doesn't pencil out to have something that is lower-density, so we're seeing the four-, five-, six-, eight-, ten-level hotels coming in," Panama City Beach City Manager, Mario Gisbert said.

Since the last boom, visitation numbers have jumped from six million to 16 million, giving hotels a reason to build.

"We've seen a big increase in visitors throughout the years and that's where, in the private sector of the hotels, they look at the trend, they look at the demand to make sure that they're not going to make investments that don't have a positive return," Rowe said.

"In the last two years we've had two hotels that have actually opened up. I don't know the exact number but probably somewhere about 240 units apiece. The Holiday Inn and the Hampton both opened. At this point in time, I believe a Marriott is underway at close to the county pier," Gisbert added.

Although there are more than 16,000 units available in the Panama City Beach rental market, city officials say 6,000 are hotels and motels, but that number continues to grow.

AAA just released a report of the highest rated hotels in North America. Both The Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach and The Sheraton Bay Point in Panama City Beach made the list.