PANAMA CITY BEACH – It took about a week after the first Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport hotel opened in Katja Chatfield to see that it would be a success.
The managing director of the Hilton Garden Inn said it only took that long for the hotel to reach maximum occupancy after it opened in July.
The hotel was then “very, very busy for the rest of July” before shutting down in August, “Chatfield said.
“We still have a pretty decent occupation at this point,” she said. “It gives (airport passengers) – even if their flight is just delayed – a great place to hang out at the bar, have a coffee, have a drink, have dinner and then return to the airport.”
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As thunderstorm clouds loom in the distance, officials and community members gathered outside the 140-plus room hotel on Tuesday afternoon for an official groundbreaking ceremony. It was recognition of a successful launch that could be the precursor to further growth of the airport in the near future, officials said.
The St. Joe Company developed the hotel near the intersection of Venture Crossing Boulevard and West Bay Parkway. It has meeting space, swimming pool, fitness center, full service restaurant and is located about a mile from the airport.
“It’s a great asset to be so close to the airport,” Parker McClellan, executive director of the airport, said of the hotel. “I think it was a great choice for the St. Joe Company. When there are delayed or canceled flights, this hotel has been the direct recipient of all those passengers and that makes life for everyone. much easier world. “
Chatfield said the hotel’s restaurant, the Garden Grill & Bar, which is open to everyone and not just guests, has seen roughly the same levels of demand as the hotel. Its staff are currently working on a promotion to boost sales.
The place serves comfort food from the south.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Chatfield invited everyone present to participate in a tour of the hotel, which has been decorated in a variety of themes to match different countries around the world. The guests received a blank “passport” which was stamped as they visited the different sections.
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While Chatfield said she was not shy about friendly competition, she added that it was nice that her hotel was the first to be built around the airport, which continues to expand and has seen a record number of passengers. This year.
“We’re basically setting the standard for (any other hotels that might) come into the area,” she said. “I always appreciate that competitors approach me because… it just keeps me on my toes.”
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According to Mayor Mark Sheldon, it is very possible that the Hilton Garden Inn will be the first in a wave of future hotels being built in the future to complement the Hilton as it continues to grow.
Besides visitors, locals who might need an early flight will benefit from the hotel, Sheldon said. It also supports flight crews who are brought to the area by different airlines.
“We know there are more developers out there, (and) we know there are more hotels to come,” he said. “It’s another way (to bring) more tourism to our region. It gives (people) the ability to stay closer to the airport.”