Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Opens

A new airport in north-west Florida will open up the region to international tourists, according to the state’s tourism authority.

Northwest Florida Beaches international airport opened last Sunday, meaning a Gatwick connection to north-west Florida is now anoption with Delta Airlines via Atlanta.

Visit Florida chief executive Chris Thompson said the new airport would improve access to the Emerald Coast. This is a less well-known part of Florida, historically visited only by Americans because of the poor air access.

“Of Florida’s visitors, 95% have been before, so we are trying to market areas that people don’t know much about,” he said. “The airport will help visitors discover a hidden treasure.”

Southwest Airlines is providing the new airport with eight daily flights from Orlando,Nashville, Baltimore and Houston.

The new flights will allow Brits to combine the theme parks with the beach attractions of Panama City, Destin and Fort Walton Beach in one holiday.

Local tourist boards hope the improved access will convince British operators to include the area in their programmes.

Direct flights from the UK are a long-term goal for the airport, which has a 10,000ft runway and seven gates.

Susan Estler, vice-president of marketing for the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, said: “We will make continued efforts to get other carriers into the airport. Virgin Atlantic flights would be wonderful.”

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