Recently a trip to 30A by the TooCreative team, meant to experience the magnetism of a increasingly popular area just west of Panama City Beach, caused grumbles among a few of our readers. Questions as to why a hyper-local media outlet would suddenly focus on a totally different city filled comment and email boxes. Well, just so you know, there was an underlying purpose behind the trip that walking the cobblestone streets only seemed to underscore: the future of Panama City Beach is on 30A.
It should be said that Panama City Beach’s future is much, much, larger than 30A and to be frank, I’ve always seen Panama City Beach becoming a smaller-less-hedonistic version of Miami. At the same time, however, I recognize how badly PCB is in need of an identity change. With the new airport scheduled to be operational in less than a year, there is not enough time to truly make the change needed to not only win over the new market but to change the unflattering perceptions of PCB in current markets. The solution then, is 30A.
Many readers took our trip to 30A as betrayal; us PCBdaily guys going over to talk about the enemy. You’d be shocked at how many people criticized us saying we were turning our heads towards Destin. My initial reaction was that perhaps they don’t realize how close Panama City Beach is to 30A—much closer than Destin, they don’t realize Bay County ends mere yards from the luxurious strip, they don’t understand that when that new airport comes online Panama City Beach’s inevitable expansion will go westward right into, you guessed it, 30A. So why all the canoodling, you ask? Well, it’s all about perception.
If you’ve never been to New York City, New York, you may not realize the actual size of the city. It’s big, but not as big as you may think. Southerners are notorious for assuming that when someone from “Up North” says, I’m from New York, they automatically are from New York City. That’s not the case. But the perception still lingers. Same case for 30A. When people talk about Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach and great restaurants like Calizas or the Red Bar, others assume they are talking about Destin. Imagine if those same people associated those places with Panama City Beach. All of a sudden, the Redneck Riviera takes on a more artistic and cultural identity. Imagine if Panama City Beach a held few of its events in Rosemary Beach or encouraged Seaside to hold part of its festivals at Pier Park. Imagine if the magic that makes up Panama City Beach blended with the magic of Seaside. The benefit would be immense.
This idea, mind you, didn’t come out of thin air and surely I am not the first person to think of it. I once worked for a company called Paradise Found Vacation Rentals, who coincidentally rented units in the Villages of South Walton. I saw firsthand the guests who stayed spent more time in Panama City Beach than 30A. Currently, Oaseas Resorts rents units within the Village of South Walton.
The big question on everyone’s mind is, when that new clientele from Chicago and New York fly into the new airport will they be more inclined to turn left off 79 or right? Many of these people have never heard of Panama City Beach and if they have they know the city as the party-capitol-of-the-south. I’ve lived in St. Louis, been to Chicago, Cincinnati and spent time in New York. What Panama City Beach is growing and developing into is a better, more multifaceted landing pad for this new clientele; a clientele who likes jazz and blues, good wine, attractions, shopping, beach lifestyle and well staffed, nicely appointed accommodations. Panama City Beach will be that place, and it almost is now, but not quite. What you have on 30A is a ready-made transition for that clientele. I’m not suggesting Panama City Beach guests go out and stay or spend all their money on 30A, only that they see 30A as an extension of Panama City Beach’s versatility, giving Panama City Beach a richer, enhanced perception.
This all begins with co-operatives. As it stands, Panama City Beach allows the Destin area to assume 30A as its own. With new ad/creative and PR agencies representing Panama City Beach, co-operatives with businesses, accommodations and events in that area will be easier than ever. And, truth be told, if you don’t think 30A businesses have PCB envy already, you’re wrong. During our trip to 30A, we found that lots of business would be more willing to work with Panama City Beach than you might imagine. In fact, only one comment, out of dozens, said “only if Panama City Beach cleans up its image,” the others were excited about the prospect. There simply needs to be a greater participation and Panama City Beach imprint in that area. We could exchange databases, co-op for events, work together on city programs such as beach clean-up and recycling and so much more. In the end, Panama City Beach will absorb some of 30A’s magic and 30A will ride the wave of Panama City Beach’s expansion. It’s a virtual win-win, if not an inevitability.
I guess this piece is a call to action. Panama City Beach needs to extend a hand to 30A. This isn’t “betrayal” thinking as much as it is “futuristic” thinking. We only have one shot to make a great impression on New York, Chicago, Detroit and cities we never dreamed would have direct flights into our little town. Now is the time to set aside our differences and show these new vacationers everything we have to offer. So, CVB, TDC, JB Inc, Fahlgren, Lou Hammond and all you local business owners we encourage you to take a ride and re-discover 30A; I’m positive you’ll find yourself thinking what I’m thinking.