Spring break in Panama City Beach is null and void

In the weeks leading up to spring break, the rumor amid college students was that no one would be headed to Panama City Beach for spring break.

The annual vacation spot brings college students from all over the country every year for a week of partying on the beach. 

As spring break season is coming to a close, those rumors have been confirmed.

So far, Spring Break 2016 has been much tamer and less profitable than Spring Break 2015.

Beachfront clubs that were regularly packed in previous years are struggling to attract more than a few hundred partiers per night. Hotel rooms and condos are going vacant in what use to be their busiest season, despite slashing rates in half. 

A Panama City hotel manager, who wished to stay anonymous, said that in past years she has been able to charge $150 a night and still easily sell out for most, or all of March. This year, she is charging about half that and she still has vacancies in her hotel. 

"It is dead this year. I don't know what we are going to do," she said. "This money, people save it for the offseason. If you have a $60,000 or $70,000 loss, how are you going to stay open this year?"

Restaurants have had to lay off servers, and long stretches of the beautiful beach are desolate as college students have turned elsewhere for the annual festivities.

PCB's spring break is "dead" and has hurt the businesses and workers that depend on the massive influx of revenue every March to make it through the rest of the year. 

Valencia Howard, third-year Florida A&M University psychology student and Panama City native, feels that the new alcohol ban on the beach in PCB has taken the fun out of spring break. 

"Honestly, spring break is no more," Howard said. "There's no more spring break in Panama City, so I would suggest no one come." 

Panama City residents have echoed the same message all month long. 

Spring break has drawn thousands of young people to Panama City Beach each year for decades, with the number of students flocking to the island peaking during the MTV Spring Break era and again in 2015.

With the resurgence of Panama City as a premier spring break destination over the past few years, it brought with it an unprecedented influx of criminal activity. 

Spring break 2015 was the worst ever, according to police, local officials and residents, as shootings, drunken injuries, drug and gun busts and sexual assaults occurred with alarming frequency.

The situation had already become unacceptable to local law enforcement agencies when a shocking YouTube video of a girl being raped in broad daylight on the white PCB sand while college students partied just feet away went viral.

Brandon Graham, a fourth-year FAMU pharmacy student from Orlando, said that Miami was not the best substitute destination for Panama City. 

"Miami is beautiful and all, and the club scene is everything you expect to be, but the city just isn't college-student friendly," Graham said. "The city is so big, and it's too congested with all the extra college students there, and not to mention it is ridiculously expensive."

With the businesses in Panama City suffering, and college students unhappy with the spring break destination substitutes, only time will tell if Panama City leaders will lift the drinking ban and bring back their best tourism season.