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Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!

Lila Margalit
April 8, 2024
Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!

Every year in March and early April, thousands of young people descend on Florida beaches to soak up some sun, kick back with friends, and have a good time. But while the influx of revelers can be a boon to local businesses, some municipalities are pushing back against the mayhem. This year, Miami Beach famously announced its intention to “break up” with spring break (“It’s not us, it’s you”) – instituting a series of restrictive measures, from curfews to elevated parking fees, designed to temper the crowds.  

But what’s happening on the ground? How did this year’s spring break impact local businesses in key Florida destinations like Miami, Key West, Panama City Beach, and Daytona Beach? Which retail segments continued to benefit from the excitement – and who were the visitors driving foot traffic to their venues? 

Key Takeaways 

  • Despite Miami Beach’s intention to break up with spring break, fast-food restaurants, breakfast venues, and coffee shops all experienced significant March visit spikes in Florida spring break destination towns. 
  • Panama City saw the biggest March dining visit surges – but eateries in Miami, Key West, and Daytona Beach also experienced significant foot traffic increases.
  • In March, local Panama City resorts as well as crowd favorites like Starbucks, Dunkin’, Whataburger, and Chick-fil-A saw a larger-than-usual share of college students.  

QSR and Coffee Chains Reap Spring Break Rewards

Florida is home to the most-searched spring break destinations in the United States. And perhaps thanks to the influx of vacationers, location intelligence shows that Quick-Service Restaurants (QSR) and Breakfast, Coffee, Bakeries, & Dessert Shops in Florida spring break hotspots enjoy significant annual visit boosts during March and early April.

The extent of the seasonal boost varies between CBSAs – and though this year’s traffic spikes were slightly lower than last year’s bumps, the two dining segments continued to benefit strongly from spring break-fueled visit bumps in 2024.

Visits to QSR & Fast-Food venues and Breakfast, Coffee, Bakeries, & Dessert Shops in Panama City – known as the spring break capital of the world – were up 57.6% and 56.9%, respectively, during the week of March 11th 2024, compared to an early January 2023 baseline. This represents a minor decline from the comparable period last year (the week of March 13th, 2023), when visits were up a respective 59.2% and 68.6%. 

QSR and coffee and breakfast chains in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Key West, and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach CBSAs also experienced significant visit spikes during the week of March 11th, 2024. Though the March foot traffic increases in these CBSAs were smaller than those seen in Panama City, they were nearly on par with the visit bumps seen in the comparable period of 2023.

College Students Drive Visits to Panama City Dining Chains

Who are the visitors driving this spring break dining activity? Drilling down into the data for leading Panama City QSR and coffee chains shows that college student influxes are likely a major contributing factor.

In July 2023 – during Panama City’s peak summer season – the captured markets of local Whataburger, Dunkin’, Starbucks, and Chick-fil-A locations were nearly devoid of STI: Landscape’s “Collegian” segment – a category encompassing currently-enrolled college students. But in March 2024, the share of this segment in the brands’ captured markets skyrocketed. 

Panama City Resorts Go Collegian

Analyzing the audiences of local Panama City resorts reveals a similar pattern. During the month of July, the captured markets of SpringHill Suites and Holiday Inn Resort – two venues popular among spring breakers – included miniscule shares of Collegians. But in March, the share of college students in the resorts’ captured markets jumped to 13.8% and 10.0%, respectively – highlighting the role of undergrads in driving hotel visits during this period. 

Spring Break Fever

Spring break is party time – and Florida has traditionally been at the center of it all. 

How will 2024 spring break continue to unfold this year in the Sunshine State? And what other retail categories stand to benefit from the excitement? 

Follow’s data-driven civic and retail analyses to find out. 

This blog includes data from Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection. 

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