Spring break economy: Florida's still top spot for students on 2012 break despite gas prices
Spring break revelers in Panama City on Florida's Panhandle. In Canada the Toronto Star named Panama City one of the ten "trashiest" places to party for spring break in 2012. AP photo
Wake up and good morning. Despite $3.75-a-gallon gas, higher air fares and a still sluggish economy, Florida looks poised to enjoy a plentiful turnout of spring breakers. The online travel service Orbitz says four Florida destinations rank among the top 10 for spring break this year, with Orlando at No. 1 and Tampa Bay at No. 9.
"Even with the relatively mild winter, Americans are still craving the sun and warm weather for spring break,"Orbitz says. In addition to top spot Orlando, the other three Florida destinations in the spring break top 10 are No. 4 Fort Lauderdale, No. 8 Fort Myers and No. 9 Tampa Bay. The other spots rounding out the top 10 are Np. 2 Las Vegas, No. 3 New York, No. 5 Cancun, No. 6 Los Angeles, No. 7 Phoenix and No. 10 Denver. Here's the Orbitz rankings showing average airfares to these destinations and how much (in general) these airline tickets have increased since last year.
Let's tour the Sunshine State. In Fort Lauderdale, lower-priced air fares are helping draw spring breakers -- important since Fort Lauderdale is so far south in the state and a long drive for northern students. Still, Fort Lauderdale anticipates just 10,000-12,000 college students, a far cry from the 380,000 spring breakers typical in the 1980s, says the South Florida Sun Sentinel. This upbeat Miami Herald story says there's more buzz in South Florida and on Miami Beach's South Beach about spring break this year.
In Sarasota, even a splash of rain did not slow this spring break bikini contest at Gilligan's Island Bar, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports. This part of Florida, however, is debating whether to ban alcohol on its beaches.
Drake University is in chilly Des Moines, Iowa, where sophomore Derek Temple, 20, is heading to Daytona Beach with a car full of bodies and a gas budget they put at nearly $500 round trip, says this Indianapolis Star report. The lure of sun and fun can put economics in the back seat of a whopping 22-hour, one-way trek. "Yeah, it's definitely going to cost us some money," Temple says, "but the hotel is cheap enough that we can afford the gas." Some spring breakers are hitting the trains and bus lines to head south.
Bottom line? Despite higher travel costs, it looks like a decent boost to the Florida tourism economy is under way, courtesy of sun-starved spring breakers.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times