As Jason posted, a special meeting of the TDC/CVB board has been called for Tuesday, September 2nd at 9:00 AM. Based on the Agenda and an August 29th letter from President Dan Rowe to the Board, I believe the board will actually vote on the FY 2009 budget on Tuesday rather than just discuss it. It is so amazing that the “New” TDC now appears to be engaging in a budget process that has been basically closed to public knowledge or input. During Tuesday’s meeting, I hope that the board explains the following:
1. Why is the board scheduled to “Consider for Approval” the FY 2009 budget at the same meeting when it is being publicly discussed for the first time? While I understand that the budget needs to be presented to the County Commission for approval by the end of September, I have no idea why the CVB has waited till the last minute to schedule the first and apparently last public meetings on the subject?
2. Why has the special meeting been scheduled on the first business day after the holiday weekend? And why was it announced just one business day before taking place?
Check after the break for more shenanigans!
3. How has the proposed budget been distributed to the public and tourist industry for input? I just received a copy of it Friday afternoon. Based on my open public record requests, I believe that this was the first time that the budget was actually distributed.
As previously mentioned, I just received the proposed budget Friday afternoon. While this last minute distribution has not allowed for a complete review, I would like to point out some things that I have noticed:
1. The CVB budget is down slightly from $4,100,449 to $3,891,605.
2. The CVB’s marketing will concentrate on the message “there’s always something ‘fun’ going on in PCB.” Value will also be a major theme.
3. It does not appear that any funds are being allocated for improving the facilities needed for our key sports markets(softball and baseball). I guess they are relying on getting the bed tax increased rather than reallocating advertising funds now. I would suggest the County Commission reject any requested tax increase since I do not believe the current board can reasonably prioritize spending.
4. It does not appear that any funds are being allocated to implement a lifeguard program. More irresponsible prioritization. The number of deaths this season seems to clearly show that signs and flags are not working. I sure hope the plan is not to use lifeguards as a bargaining chip with the proposed tax increase. The TDC/CVB really needs to get out and interview the Destin/South Walton tourist and find out how many tourists we are losing due to our refusal to deal with the issue. We need to find out why the people who know about PCB but choose to go somewhere else do so.
5. The “Summer White Sale”-like targeted campaign of last-minute advertising “with strong calls to actions” will be expanded year-round. After years of the CVB working on brand advertising to expand our traditional customer base, it now appear that the CVB will mainly concentrate on the type of advertising that had been traditionally paid for by the businesses themselves.
6. Other than College Spring Break and Family Spring Break, the advertising campaigns will target adults 35-54.
7. The Winter Campaign is also designed to target adults 35-54. While I agree that we need to do more to other short-visit tourists to supplement our winter residents, it appears that little is being done to retain our current winter residents who generally do not fit into this targeted demographic.
8. The CVB will bring mtvU back for 2009 College Spring Break at a cost of $150,000. A change will be that database marketing will be used to encourage return visitation from these visitors. I believe that encouraging a party atmosphere on Front Beach Road all year is not consistent with attracting the visitors that PCB needs to grow and survive Are first-time families who encounter young adults jumping out in front of cars to dance and impede traffic on a summer evening likely to come back? I think not. Then again, maybe the traffic delay provide learning time for parents to answer questions from their young children concerning the prominent advertising for ez-whips, pipes, and XXX movies on Front Beach Rd. “Mommy, what is a XXX movie?”
9. Family spring and the Summer campaigns will concentrate solely on our traditional drive markets (GA/AL/TN/FL). Why are we concentrating on those people who already know about us and are more likely to come just for a few days? What about all the Midwest and Eastern visitors who are more likely to stay for an entire week during the high season. We need to realize that we are now a condo market that needs week-long visitors and quit doing so much to cater to weekend hotel business.
10. The budget narrative claims “FY 2009 is a transitional year in the way the CVB handles the promotion of Special events on Panama City Beach. The new strategy is for the CVB to mount a year-round campaign that highlights the multitude of events occurring on the beach and limit the amount of direct funding.” However, there is still $160,000 budgeted for Sponsorships and Advertising Support down from $172,450 in the current year. It doesn’t sound like much of a transition. No information has been provided on what events will receive support, nor has the CVB followed the special event policy that the board decided to reinstate earlier this year. According to the policy, there is a procedure for the Marketing Committee and Board to consider which events will receive funding. No such meetings have taken place publicly.
11. Unlike the Family spring and Summer programs, the CVB will also target the Midwest and Canada for September-December travel.
12. Personal expense will increase from $311,730 to $685,121. Obviously a large portion of this increase relates to positions that were vacant for most of FY 2008.
I made a big mistake when I supported the “other 96%” in their successful overthrow of the “old” TDC. While I still disagree with many things the “old” board did (especially the wrongful firing of Bob Warren), the “new” TDC has not followed through on their campaign platform. I strongly believe that desperate, last-minute advertising to people who already know about PCB is not what we should be spending our limited governmental funds on when there are so many other worthwhile opportunities. And we should also ensure that all expenditures are designed to benefit 100% of the industry. The proposed budget isn’t even based on the input or needs of the “other 96%”.