It’s that special time of year when we can finally sit back and assess the damage of Spring Break on Panama City Beach. Well, after interviewing Hotel and Condo representatives, living and breathing Spring Break as a resident and taking in the major incidents, only one conclusion could be made: 2010 Spring Break was a success.
This year’s Spring Break was different than previous Breaks for a number of reasons. The TDC’s stance had a huge impact. In past years, it was the TDC’s job to allocate marketing funds towards Spring Break. Hundreds of thousands of bed tax dollars, for years, were put toward drawing fun-loving students aching to party the week away. For 2010, the TDC decided not to allocate funds towards drawing big crowds, but put the monies towards “Spring Break Responsibly” campaigns and engaging in proactive Spring Break public relations activities. On top of that, the TDC requested of the city to hire auxiliary police during peak weeks, augment PCB PD to increase police presence along Front Beach Road, provide additional foot, canine and ATV patrols in areas of high Spring Break activity (including beach walkers to enforce littering, glass and other laws) and to fully implement the Special Events Ordinance to insure gatherings of college students at outdoor concerts and other assemblies have appropriate management and public safety plans in place. In other words, instead of spending money on bringing a crowd, the TDC worked on how to handle the crowd.
2010’s Spring Break also differed because of who actually spent marketing dollars for spring break: the local co-op. Panama City Beach’s Co-Op, led by Jack Bishop and Collegiate Marketing Group LLC, drew funds together to promote Spring Break. As usual, huge crowds followed and, as usual, Spring Break looked as if it were back to its crazy-old, polarizing self.
But, after speaking with a hotel desk clerk (who asked that her name and company remain anonymous) Spring Break wasn’t as bad as it seemed. “We were sold out every week.” She said. “And I think the campaigns worked. The kids were bad, but not as bad as usual. Incidents reports were down and damages too.”
She went on to tell me that the worst incident was a fight and that police arrive quickly enough before it got too rowdy.
“Last year,” she said, “we had a bunch of fights and the police couldn’t get here in time.”
A condo manager who also asked to remain anonymous noted the increase in business and the decline in reported damages. “We did better this year than last.” He said.
Still, Spring Break was not without its major incidents. If you read the paper over the course of the last few weeks, the arrests for Spring Break 2010 were up significantly from 2009, a direct result of the increase of law enforcement on the beach. Special event ordinances worked to keep crowds lower than they have been in the past. Overall, there were heads in beds which generated huge revenue, there were lots of people but additional law enforcement to maintain them and significant marketing dollars which would have normally been spent can now be moved towards positively managing PCB’s image and Public Relations.
But, there was one setback: traffic. A successful spring break by comparison could not put a dent in the traffic. I guess, you can’t have it all. Nonetheless, it should be said that Spring Break is a tough beast to handle. In a perfect world the students would be exemplary, the streets would be driveable and locals would be happy. PCB has been in the SB business for years and has never been able to good grip on it. 2010 is as close as we’ve come.
So, with that said, to all the members of our TDC, job well done guys.