The new web site for Panama City Beach should be pretty sweet. Ok, now that I’ve secured my insecurity regarding my terminal uncoolness, lets get right down to it.
Participants heralded from all walks of the hospitality and tourism industry in PCB. The audience was spotted with community leaders such as Jack Bishop and Buddy Wilkes and the little guys such as individual condo owners, and was chaired by Jennifer Barbee from JBInc.
The idea behind the meeting was to brainstorm with the local tourism industry on what they liked and disliked about the current web site and what their expecations were with the new web site.
Some of the ideas were:
- Come up with a categorization process or criteria for events posted on the events calendar. CJ Ryan had mentioned that there is a distinct difference between events and specials and that should be discerned on the calender. There was actually a lot of discussion about the calender. I agree with CJ, and disagree at the same time. I think there should be a discernment between events and specials (meaning 2 for 1 drinks and where ever), but I don’t see any reason why they should not be on the same calendar. I think anything dated should be in the same place so the user doesn’t have to look in multiple places to see what is happening on what date.
- One of the participants suggested having a Craig’s List of sorts for PCB where travelers could post their needs and resorts could respond. I don’t see how this would work, logistically.
- Using Niche content – users would arrive at the site and gently be asked a series of questions so the site could get a feel for who they are. After a few questions, the user would be directed to a series of custom pages that would be populated based on the answers to their questions. I’ve seen this before and it is a very powerful way of guiding the user to the parts of the web site that would best convert the user into money. These processes usually include pretty detailed site flow traffic. This would enable us to tweak all the varying elements of the site to make the presentation more effective. We need to be moving in this direction.
- Part of the previous section includes feeding the user accommodations options based on their input. Other suggestions included a way for people to search by varying criteria such as “indoor pool”, or “pet friendly”, etc.
- There was discussion about offering package deals
- The audience talked about having an online booking engine. There are good arguments for and against this as it effects the varying aspects of the local tourism industry in myriad ways. Jennifer ultimately said that having a booking engine on the actual destination site historically hasn’t been real effective but was willing to explore that option further.
- It was discussed to tailor the events calendar based on user input – again, going back to the Niche content.
- Discussed was user-derived content such as photos, e cards and video. This could possibly include a user generated content community. Another local site has done this and the execution was done very well. I think this is a necessity as we move forward. We need to seriously consider having a user community where people can create profiles, chat in forums, IM each other, and post pictures and video. It wouldn’t be very difficult to implement a verification, screening, or moderation process to ensure that less favorable or unsuitable material wouldn’t make it live. People are dying to post their videos and picture of the beach in a place that others that share their same passion can view them. The trick is marketing the whoopsidoodle out of it and consistency.
- Of course, the whole site would need to be set up with RSS, with feeds specific to all the varying categories of content, maybe even custom feeds generated on the fly based on user input (is that possible? surely some genius can figure that out).
- Online chat was suggested where visitors could chat with a live person about the area.
- Video based promotion and a web cam. The TDC/CVB currently has a web cam but is cannot be viewed from the visitpanamacitybeach.com web site, it goes through WeatherBug, or something like that. Also talked about was “man-on-the-street” video covering happenings in Panama City Beach. This is great, but one has to be careful to not make it TOO “man-on-the-street”. The News Herald is guilty of often posting videos that are so terrible that you can’t hardly tell what they are saying. Sorry NH, but you’ve got to buy a better video camera, a microphone, and some skills! I still love you guys though.
- Capability for the vendors to login and manipulate their information on the site, i.e. pictures, copy, specials, etc.
- Continue meeting in workshops to keep up with industry needs.
All in all, there were some great ideas and a good platform has been made for a great web site. Jenn Barbee is sharp and I’m excited to see what we get.