Bed Tax Revenue Soars in March

Tourism traffic was definitely up in March of this year as indicated by the latest bed tax revenue monthly report.  Year over year, March of this year was an astounding 19.4% up over last year.  Looking closer reveals an even more astounding 38% increase over 2009, our last “low” point over the last 6 years. In Bay County there is a tax collected on each vacation rental revenue dollar that is calculated as 5% of the total base rent rate of each stay.  This Bed Tax money is then appropriated to a variety of efforts to fund the general tourism marketing of our area.  Some funds marketing, some funds operational costs of handling the marketing operations, some funds renourshing our beach, etc.

A close look at the numbers.

With the oil spill a couple years ago, there was a lot of uncertainty as to what direction our local tourism industry was going to go. Last year (2011 season) being the first year out of that catastrophe, and seeing a 3.7% decrease in year over year bed tax collections, many were heavily concerned with how the 2011 summer would fare. Of course, we know, summer 2011 was a record breaking season, so those fears fortunately, were unfounded. Total Bed Tax dollars collected for March of 2012 were $1,769,821.69. This is 5% total of all the room-night revenue reported. Broken down by single percentage, this would be $353,964.34 per point collected. The total bed tax revenue collected for March of 2011 was $1,482,498.95. Again, broken down by single percentage, this would be $296,499.79. In doing year over year increase calculations, it’s important to break down the total revenue collected by single percentage because beginning in the 2008/2009 tourism season, 5% was collected but before it was 3%. Here is the total breakdown for March for all previous years back to 2007.

  • March 2010 – $1,539,121.49 – single point: $307,824.30 – 19.9% over previous year
  • March 2009 – $1,026,521.85 – single point: $256,630.46 – -5.3% down previous year
  • March 2008 – $813,079.54 – single point: $271,026.51 – 16.3% over previous year
  • March 2007 – $699,028.94 – single point: $233,009.65
Projections for April 2012

We’ve already offered our general prediction over the average increase projections for tourism season 2012. March 2012 bed tax revenue numbers were amazing, and if that’s any indication of what we’ll see for April, then we’re on a fast track to an amazing tourism season for this summer. I can speak for my own vacation rental company (PCBLP) in that April was certainly record breaking. We had a much better April than we did last year, but it’s difficult for me to tabulate the source as we were just getting rolling last April. Looking at average increases for April bed tax revenue over the last 6 years, we should see a minimum of 7% increase this year over last year. But I’m betting on a more dramatic increase that is founded on what we’ve seen the last 3 years, which would be a healthy 15.4%. I’m projecting our 2012 April bed tax collections to be $1,404,017.44 – give or take 3%. I love making predictions. We’ll see how close I get!

Whataburger Opens in Panama City Beach

I know you’re mouth has been watering every time you’ve driven by the Whataburger that’s been under construction on Back Beach Road.  And don’t pretend it’s not watering now, just thinking about it.  They’ve been working on it for a couple months, and it finally opened last week.

It’s located right next to the new Hardee’s in one of the Lowe’s out parcels next to the Tom Thumb gas station.  It’s in the southeast quadrant of the Alf Coleman and Panama City Beach Parkway (Back Beach Road) intersection.

The best part about this place is that it’s open 24 hours a day!

I ate there last week and was pleasantly surprised when they brought my food out to me and offered napkins and condiments right at my table.  Not sure if that will last forever, but I sure enjoyed it!  And the burger was awesome.

Pier Park Summer Concert Series Schedule

Ah, summertime.  When I think of it, almost every time without fail, a certain Sublime song begins to play in my head – nevermind the underlying story.  All I remember is “Summertime and the livin’s easy.”  And easy living will surely have this fantastic summer we have coming up.

Tourism numbers are up, the weather’s been perfect lately and today we’re announcing the lineup of this summer’s Pier Park Summer Concert Series!

The series is every Thursday evening and begins at 7 pm.

Pier Park Summer Concert Series Band Lineup and Schedule

June 7  — Eric Lindell

June 14 — The Black Lillies

June 21 — Telluride

June 28 — The Kevin Jacobs Band

July 5 — Heritage

July 12 — George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners

July 19 — The Lee Boys

July 26 — Boukou Groove

August 2 — Heat and the Zydeco Gents

August 9 — Colin Lake

August 16 — The Barry Fish Band

“Anchors Away” kicks off it’s first year at “Gayles Trails” Next Month

How exciting!  “Gayles Trails” or Panama City Beach Converstation  Park will be the home of an annual event for Anchorage Childrens Home next month.  The “Anchors Away 6K Family Fun Run” will debut 8 am on June 23rd and give Bay county residents a chance to enjoy nature outside with their family and support an amazing organization that serves our area.  The 6k run will be catered to the runner crowd while the 1 mile Fun Run will be geared towards families, friends, and even your pets to just get outside and enjoy the fresh air!

The event will be very affordable, the 6k is $20 if you sign up before June 5th and the Family Fun Run is only $10 per family.  To find out more you can visit their facebook page or you can even sign up on

Anchorage Childrens Home, though located on Lisenby Avenue in Panama City, provides a place of shelter for homeless and runaway youths from all over.  In fact, two of their sucessful residential programs, including Hannah’s house, are operated in Panama City Beach.  Many local businesses that are aware of the good that Ancorage does are jumping at the opportunity to be involved in this new annual event.

Some sponsors include: Gulf Coast DermatologyGangwish, Grandy, and Melzer Family Dentistry, Freedom Sports,, Panama City Beach TDC, and the Panama City Beach Fire Department and others.  If you, or someone from your business would like to lend a helping hand to this event, there is something for everyone.  Maybe you want to donate some water for the atheletes like SETCO Services or perhaps you have some goodies you want to put in the participants’ grab bags??  Or maybe if you are blessed to give a little more….you might want to sponsor a mile marker or help with awards or race T-Shirts?  Sponsorship opportunities are available up until one week prior to event.

However your heart moves you….there is still time to get involved.  To find out how you can help, call Brooke Bullard, Development Director at 850-763-7102 or email her at


The Beach Show #138- Unique Waterfront Property Special!

Hot deal # 1 is two houses in one for only $998,000 right on the Gulf
2900 square feet
6 bedrooms and 5 baths with over 1200 square feet of sun deck
Newly remodeled
Main house is two story with reverse floor plan and awesome gulf views
2nd house is one level with 3 bedrooms and adorable sun porch
Would make a great rental
Room for 10 cars to park and RV hookup

Hot deal #2 is an artistic retro home right on the bay for only $569,000

7 bedrooms and 7 baths with over 5,125 square feet
Custom built indoor heated pool with the most amazing slide for the kid in you!!!
Above the home is a separate apartment with its own den, kitchen and 3 bedrooms
Amazing design with wide open spaces
Boat lift and launch, right on the bay with spectacular views

ZooWorld Celebrates 20 Years, Admission $1 [THIS WEEKEND]

For those of you that came out a couple weekends ago and helped volunteer, thank you!  The community service project was an enormous success with over 75 people showing up to help. Tons of great work was done and the zoo is infinitely grateful for our service. Again, thank you.

This upcoming weekend ZooWorld celebrates 20 years of caring and entertaining, and they’re honoring that celebration with a super sweet $1 admission on Saturday.

Details about this one day event.

The event is this Saturday only, May 19 (my birthday!) and runs from 9 am to 5 pm cst.

  • Price of admission: $1 per person (no other discounts)
  • The last entry will be at 4:30 pm.
  • They’ll have concessions available for sale.
  • Animal shows will be at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.
  • They’ll have a magician doing shows and demonstrations, a bounce house and pony rides.
Volunteers needed!

If your Saturday is free this weekend, and you’re looking to do some good service, ZooWorld needs your help.  They need volunteers to help man the stations, keep an eye on pony rides and help out where needed.

They need volunteers in three different shifts:

  • 8:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • 12 pm to 5 pm
  • 8:30 am to 5 pm

Volunteers would check-in at side gate and they’d like for them to call and RSVP on Friday, 850-230-4839 ext. 202.

Aaron Bessant Park Improvements [UPDATE]

Well, the Jazz Festival was awesome!  They had record numbers and mostly excellent weather (minus Saturday), and they’ve already started selling tickets for next year!  With that out of the way, the improvements that are slated for Aaron Bessant Park are preparing to begin! Although I don’t look forward for the workers working during our hot summer days.

We’ve discussed what the plans are here, and you’ve certainly chimed in.

Q&A with the City of Panama City Beach

We were curious about what was happening over there and fired off some questions to Mario Gisbert, the director of the CRA, who also happens to handle some of the logistics regarding the development of this project.

Q. Now that the Jazz Fest is over, is there a projected begin date for the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater Improvements?

We are fine toning the drawings now, we will be pricing per the City of Panama City Beach requirements shortly (one month process).  Upon council approval of bids (two week process) and not exceeding the budget we would start construction.  Goal would be June start.

Q. What is the projected construction time on the amphitheater?

The construction duration is approximately 5 months.

Q. What has been learned about the acoustical ramifications of the way the speakers can be oriented?

With proper speaker orientation, building configuration and amplification limitations, the performances will work within the current sound ordinance.  These issues are being addressed with the building design.  The performance standards are being developed at this point in time.

Q. How will the speakers be oriented in order to be sensitive to the needs of the surrounding public?

The speakers will be aimed (7 degree cone) into the audience and not out towards the neighborhoods.

Q. Was some of what has been learned put into practice for the Jazz Festival this year?

The performance provider was aware of the current issues and did coordinate the speakers for a proper responsible performance.  The current sound ordinance limits were adhered.  We did monitor the event.

Q. How will the sound be monitored on an ongoing basis to be sure everyone is happy?

We will complete the performance standards and monitor the effects and adjust as needed.  We are planning on having the acoustician present during the new building performance in order to make final adjustments with building and speakers and amplification.

New Bumble products keep PCB Salon Buzzing

Summer time is just around the corner……..

So us ladies are getting our beach bodies ready and protecting our new summer hair do’s from the sun!  So being someone that LOVES to go Red,  I was excited to find out that Indulgence Salon and Spa, located in Panama City Beach now carries an exclusive line of Bumble and Bumble products called “Color Minded”.

I bought this cute little travel size bag to hold my new color

This line is designed to preserve hair color and protect hair from the suns’ uva and uvb rays and is also Sulfate Free.  The salon, who is always on the cutting edge…forgive the pun….boasts 6 full time stylists and makes beauty education and innovation a top priority, which is evident in the quality of products, they choose to carry.







Big Selection of Bumble and Bumble Products at Indulgence in PCB
FREE gift with Purchase of 2 or more Bumble and Bumble products, while supplies last

The “Color Minded” line includes Shampoo, Conditioner, Styling Balm and Polish.  In addition, a In Salon Professional Treatment is available to preserve newly colored hair for 40 washes! Indulgence Salon and Spa is the only salon on Panama City Beach to carry the new color-preserving line.  The only other two salons carrying this salon are Hue in down town Panama City and Roland’s Beauty Bar in Seaside.


Rebecca Marolla at just 21 years of age, with the help of sister Tamsin Debruhl opened up their own Salon, Indulgence Salon and Spa just over 6 years ago this past March.  Formerly in the Grand Panama Plaza, they are now located on Middle Beach Road across from the Panama City Beach Post Office.



Teryn Blow drying my new Red Hair after Bumble treatment
I got the Color Minded Pro treatment to hold in my new red!



Every woman is familiar with the salon scene in the movie “Steel Magnolias“, and we all smile when we think of Dolly Parton’s character, who greeted everyone by name.  Well, Lindsay Elmore the office manager, and my personal stylist Teryn Morgan and all the others’ for that matter, always greet me by my name.   I watch them offer each customer a warm smile and a refreshment as they come in the door.

My heart delights that Panama City Beach provides small businesses like these a soil in which they can thrive.   I feel like a lot of times when we go into a business, we feel like we have to choose which is more important, professionalism or personal attention.  When you walk into Indulgence Salon and Spa, you realize that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Summer time Red from Indulgence Salon and Spa in PCB
The finished product 🙂

When I was sitting back getting my hair rinsed, I let out a little “Ahhhh’ I told Teryn I had come in just in time, for I needed to feel good today.  I told her I needed some “Pretty Power.”  Stylist, Jonathon and Rebecca let out a little chuckle at my expression.  Rebecca answered back with her signature smile, “So like instead of  All you need is Love, it’s all you need is your hair done?”


Exactly. Except, I am going to say you  need  both…Love and your hair done.

All the women know what I am talking about.

If you are itching to get a fun new color for Summer and try this HOT, NEW Bumble and Bumble line, like I was….give the salon a call at: 850 234 2100.  You can also find them via their website or Facebook page.

And pssst….don’t forget to ask for your FREE gift with purchase of two or more Bumble and Bumble products, this month only!

$69 Shipwreck Island Season Passes [THIS WEEKEND]

Shipwreck Island is well known locally for splashing, laughter and a super fun break from the beach.  Our small town waterpark brings big fun, short lines and inexpensive entertainment to kids and parents alike.  Having come from the big city, I have a very special appreciation for Shipwreck Island.  The free parking, extremely well maintained rides, excellent management and short ride lines bring me and my family back year after year.

I’ve told you how much I love Shipwreck Island before, and now you can find out for yourself!

Last chance for $69 Season Passes

Normally, season passes are $99, which is a bargain considering it pays for itself in just 3 visits! But last Saturday and this Saturday (May 5) they are running a super duper awesome special of just $69.

They literally had a line with hundreds of people waiting to buy the discount passes last week, and I fully expect the same this week!

Normally, admission for one adult is $33 per week, so to get a season pass for just $69 – well, that’s just a steal.

Note: there is a limit of 6 passes per person.

For more information, make sure you keep an eye on their Facebook page.

An added bonus.

Plus, if you come out this weekend and pick up a season pass, you’ll get a coupon book with over $250 in savings.  Some of the coupons in this book include:

  • Get a friend in for $10
  • Buy one pizza slice, get another for 30 cents
  • Buy a hot dog, get another for 30 cents
  • Discount souvenir cups on certain dates
  • And tons more.

This coupon book is in celebration of their 30th anniversary.

Your Business On The Web: 11 Tips To Make Your Website Better

Business A and Business B sell identical products at different but highly competitive locations. Business A uses it’s website as a brochure, composing of a few static pages filled with text. Business B uses its website as a virtual brick and mortar store accessible from anywhere in the world. Business B’s website is well-designed to exude the “feel” of its business. The content on the pages are strategic, SEO friendly and is regularly updated with featured products. The site has user comments, reviews and a blog that is integrated into social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Which business do you believe has better numbers at years end? Better still, which business do you believe consumers will find in a search and be more inclined to recommend? If you said Business A, you can stop reading now.

Your website means more now than ever and its value will continue to increase in the coming years. Great-looking, highly functional and accessible websites are a must for any business, new or well-established. Building and maintaining a great web presence is not easy and should never be seen as a flash in the pan. It takes thought and dedication, and no $199-build-your-own site is going to produce the type of ROI a well thought-out custom site can. So how do you help your site perform? What should you consider when building a new site or updating a current one? Here are 11 sweet tips to help you achieve real success with your website.

1. Design For User Experience

Let’s say you run a law office. How would your users feel if your site radiated Crayola colors and was littered with flashy and glittering elements? Concurrently, if you ran a daycare, how would your users react to a site that was ultra-modern, using dark reds, blacks and browns? These things change the way a user “feels” and could negatively effect a potential conversion. Designing for user experience means you understand your business, understand your user and the site is designed to express and evoke desires. This was true long before the web. For example, restaurants can be designed for fun and families like Beef o Brady’s, or elegance like Firefly. Whole cities are designed around concepts, feels and an “experience.” When done well, the impact and purpose is immediate. The same can be true for your site. If, in your business, you want the user to “feel” the beach, then it should reflect in your website. If you want them to feel excitement and thrills, use bright color palettes and strong imagery. The key is knowing what you want and knowing your user and allowing the two to find each other. Here are a few examples of websites well-crafted for user experience:, (scroll down on this one),,

2. Blog…or not

If you have ever sat in on one of my seminars, you know I believe blogging is the bees knees. Blogging, and by blogging I mean just updating your site with relevant information, is the central hub for your website, your social presence and your SEO. I think every business should post a new blog post at least once a week. But, blogging can be counter-productive. If I visit your site and see you have a blog, but also see you haven’t updated it since 2009, well, I will most likely not come back. Too often, business see blogging as just another thing to do. But, blogging is like putting out your own press releases. Even more importantly, the blog creates your “feed” to the web and allows your site to become a “speaking” entity rather than a static one. I often have local friends and clients tell me they have nothing to blog about. I tell them to grab a google alert for, say, Panama City Beach. And every day, google will email you a list of all the web articles on the web using that keyphrase You are bound to find something in there worth your two cents.

3. Don’t Sacrifice Good Content For SEO

For those who do not know what SEO is, it stands for Search Engine Optimization (how your site returns when certain words and phrases are searched in google, yahoo, bing..etc). For the last 7-10 years, websites have sacrificed good, valueable content for content thick with SEO phrases. While you may think, “adding Panama City Beach in every line of my site will get me ranked,” think about who the content is for: search engine bots or people? More importantly, it’s been a little over a year since Google released its PANDA algorithm update which ranks quality, original content higher than SEO rich content…and content is only as good as the people who read it. So write your content for your mindful visitor, not a mindless searchbot.

4. Have an About Us Page

In an era where the web is becoming much more personal, it is important to have an About Us page. Your business should have a story, and if it doesn’t, the people who work for it do. Tell it. Your user wants to hear it. Tell me when your business was established, what is its purpose and why it is more awesome than anyone else. And don’t be stiff, tell it honestly and forthright. Transparency on the web fits well into this new era as people seek out a personal touch and avoid corporation….which leads perfectly into the next point…

5. Avoid Mystery

How many times have you gone to a website looking to buy something but can never find the price? How many times have you gone to look at a real estate site and they ask you to sign up before you can look at any properties? Your site must be easy, smooth and obvious. Remember, users who are empowered with information are more likely to convert. If you do property rentals, show lots of high-quality photos and throw some real reviews in there. If you sell a product give the user a video on how it works, tell them the full price and all the features. If you groom dogs, show before and after photos, feature dogs of the month with their owner and give the user a virtual tour of your facility. Shine, don’t hide.

6. Have A Clear Focal Point

Too often websites don’t have a clear focal point. Either they are filled with text or have too many things equal in hierarchy. Creating a focal point is easy, choosing what it should be is not. Real Estate agents and brokerages have to ask themselves what is the most important thing they want visitors to see or do? You want them to see your latest property? Maybe go right to a property search? Hotels and Condos, do you want them to see your property features or search for units? Perhaps you are a shoe store, do you want to feature a tag line or showcase the lastest release? Whatever you choose, a good focal point is the most important step in conversion. I encourage friends and clients to decided for themselves what is important and make it the most visible element on the homepage using either size, color, location or all three to make it stand out. Here are a few examples of sites with a strong focal point:,,,

7. Use Typography Intelligently

Ah, my good friend typography. While many of you will skip this over, you don’t realize that on the web as well as print, typography is more important than imagery. Intelligent use of typography means your content hierarchy can delineated in a glance. Your heading font size, color, type, style and spacing is based on importance. Eyes viewing your website use your use of typography like signs on a highway, guiding them to what is most important. Don’t believe me? Check out these sites using typography and tell me you didn’t know just want to read?,,,

8. Update Homepage Content

Your home page is the equivalent of your store window. If people are window shopping, you have to do more than just give them something to look at, but something new and relevant. Studies show, websites with updating content on the home page yield more return visitors than those that don’t. I mean, look at The homepage changes constantly and people come back to see what is new. Even if you do something as simple as placing a changing feature on the sidebar, or a scrolling news ticker, your user will notice…and so will searchbots. Search engines love new content, especially on the homepage, like bees love honey.

9. Control User Interaction Through Navigation

We all know the importance of a smooth site navigation. But, navigation is more than having a bar across the top of the site. The key to controlling user interaction is a combination of limiting the number of things in the primary navigation and repeating the important things in different ways. Okay, so, I know that I want my users to go to my products page. I may have “Products” listed in the primary navigation, but I will also have a featured scroller showing images of my latest products and then, down the page, have a graphic logo that is linked to my products page and again in the footer a link to the products. What I am doing is creating multiple ways to reach one place and presenting them in different ways as to not overwhelm the user. In the end, they go exactly where I want. I encourage you to be leery of large, chunky navigations. Too many options create confusion and, eventually, a lost conversion.

10. Integrate Social Components

You see, just about everywhere, the facebook logo on websites. But, you can take the social component much further. Add additional sharing options (facebook, twitter, pinterest etc..) on pages, so people can share your site with friends and networks without having to “like” your page. Also, add the ability to comment on your blog posts. You can set up comments to require your approval before going live. A simple comment can create linkbacks, good user-generated content, SEO validity and, most importantly, site interaction with users. Also, collect email addresses on site to send email newsletters. Using your site to create a social environment is important is so many ways and can be relatively easy to set up.

11. Analytics

If you don’t have analytics yet, stop reading this and go get some right now. Analytics are the ultimate sources for understanding the type of individuals visiting your site and their habits. Analytics can show you what states and cites visitors are coming from, what links and pages are the most popular, daily visit numbers, average time on sites and pages and so much more. Here, let me give you a good example. I had a client who wanted to increase Spring Break numbers. We looked at the site analytics and saw an unusual trend. Site state by state visitors were ranked, 1. Illinois, 2. Wisconsin, 3. Ohio…all north and northeast. But, reservations and stays were ranked 1. Alabama, 2. Florida, 3. Georgia…all southern. This showed me that Northern students visited the site, but for some reason were not booking. We changed our marketing strategies and were able to reach out to those students, increasing their bookings exponentially and, in turn, boosting the bottom line. None of this would have been possible without site analytics.

Bonus: Contact Form or Live Chat

Here is an extra tip because I like you people. I have seen incredible results with the use of quick contact forms in visible places like the footer or sidebar. Unlike a contact page, these forms are simple, Name, Email, Message. People use these like mad. And if you have staffing to handle a live chat, I highly encourage this. Live chat allows you to talk real time with anyone looking but not converting. Most people in this day and age use the phone last. So, imagine if you could get them while they are researching information and make a sale, a connection or just provide good information. There are even proactive chats that will initiate contact if they have been on the page for more than a few seconds. Here is a link to my favorite chat.

Alright folks, my fingers hurt from all this typing. I hope you find this useful. Tune in next week for Your Business on the Web: Social Media Best Practices.