Jack Bishop asks TDC; "We Need More Help with the Seafood, Wine & Music Fest

Tuesday’s combined TDC/CVB meeting at City Hall covered topics such as the impact of extra sporting events and sports marketing on Panama City Beach, (numbers are up and new events keep coming!) approval and discussion of various financial items, an update on the Panama City Beach vegetation project (very well executed so far, almost 60% complete with lots of new sea oats and vegetation planted), and, most importantly, the Seafood Wine & Music Festival for 2010.

Jack Bishop, local restaurant owner and former member of the Bay County Tourist Development Council is one of the festival organizers, and took to the microphone at the meeting to put his thoughts and ideas to the board. Mr Bishop talked about how far the festival has come since it’s roots and how he sees further growth and improvement in the future. “The Seafood, Wine & Music Festival has gone a long way towards restoring the image of Panama City Beach.” Bishop stated. “We need something like this, something for people to do in addition to 4th July, especially now we are appealing to an upper level demographic with the arrival of the new airport.”
Mr Bishop continued to say; “We need to make some short term decisions, and some long term decisions. In the short term, let’s think about 2010. We need to address the issues of security, garbage and sanitation, and production, all of which we need to step up, and will need extra resources for. We need extra promotion and sponsorship, extra marketing, and extra financing.” Mr Bishop then asked for an additional $50,000 on top of the current $60,000 the board has already committed in order to execute these changes. “We know exactly where we are now with the Seafood, Wine & Music Festival, and I have learned many lessons along the way. If I am to take on this extra responsibility, then I am going to need more help.”

TDC: Spring Break Recommendations – No More MTV

TDC/CVB had a combined meeting this week to pass Spring Break recommendations presented by Dan Rowe, CEO of the Tourist Development Council. After long weeks of deliberations, meetings and one vigorous community forum, a recommendation on Spring Break was reached that will decidedly cut Spring Break advertising ergo, cutting ties with MTV.

Bullet point recommendations at the meeting were as follows:

  • TDC Actions:
    • Limit Paid Advertising to “Spring Break Responsibly” campaigns
    • Engage in Proactive Spring Break Public Relations activities
    • Develop a Spring Break Section of VisitPanamaCityBeach.com with Spring Break Responsibly messages, “Rules of the Road,” Spring Break Friendly Lodging.
  • Requested City of Panama City Beach Actions
    • Conduct workshops for businesses engaged in Spring Break to discuss ways of better managing Spring Break business owners’ roles in the enforcement of state and local laws and other avenues to control potential problems related to Spring Break.
    • Conduct workshops with the public and lodging establishments not directly engaged in Spring Break on strategies to control and limit impacts from Spring Break, as well as define various roles, responsibilities, and what action public safety officials can legally and practically take.
    • Hire auxiliary police during peak weeks to 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 on the sandy beach to enforce littering, glass and other laws.
    • 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.
    • Encourage FRLA to take and active role in getting the association’s members to proactively manage Spring Break activities at their locations.

This breaks down to better overall management of the 2 month-long event coupled with a more strategic advertising aimed at positive Spring Break messaging. No additional monies will be allocated to marketing or advertising Spring Break (only towards advertising “Spring Break Responsibly” which should fall somewhere between $12-$15,000 in total). Basically, no MTV, no bucketloads of money to the event and much stronger police presence throughout the beach. The question remains as to whether or not this will satisfy everyone, but it is, incontestably, a very good start.

Huge Changes Ahead in the Marketing of Panama City Beach

Friday two contracts were presented and accepted by the tourist development council that will help transform the image of panama city beach in the coming years. Fahlgren and Lou Hammond were chosen for creative and PR respectively; contracts were already negotiated with the agencies prior to presentation to be board.

The Fahlgren contract is for $22,500 per month and includes all creative and promotions.  The YPartnership contract was $12,500 per month but did not include creative.  Last year alone they spent over $150k in creative and that number could have gone higher.  Also, travel expenses for the agencies is built into the contracts as well.

Lou Hammond’s contract for public relations is for $17,500 per month and actually includes a New York media reception at their main office, 2 publicity stunts in New York and 2 group media trips to be hosted in destination (Panama City Beach).

Each contract is for 2 years with the option to renew and each will play a huge role in our area’s future growth.

Panama City Beach’s New Era Starts With Fahlgren & Lou Hammond

The era of Y-Partnership is over. Y-Partnership’s replacement as the ad agency to represent Panama City Beach is Fahlgren, a sharp group based out of Ohio with ties to VisitFlorida and Southwest Airlines. The agency chosen by the board to handle Public Relations for PCB will be the Lou Hammond agency out of New York, strong in crisis management with international ties.

Both agencies presented to the board alongside 3 other agencies, LKM, Beber Silverstein, Hayworth Creative, all talented and thorough in their respective disciplines, competing to carry Panama City Beach into its very bright future.

Fahlgren, represented by Neil Mortine, impressed the board with ties to Southwest as well as a strong belief in the need to develop co-operatives locally and regionally. Fahlgren proved to have a broad enough knowledge of the area’s diversity, great social media marketing understanding and were balanced with creativity and the range of contacts capable of pulling off what Y-Partnership could not; make Panama City Beach a top destination. Representing 45 companies like McDonald’s, Cooper Tires and others, Panama City Beach will be one of Fahlgren’s top 10 clients and should receive a great deal of attention from an award winning agency.

The Lou Hammond Agency, an award winning agency in its own right, with offices in New York, Charleston and Miami, wowed the board to a hands-down decision. Lou Hammond herself, the agency’s president and owner, conducted the presentation and the board loved every second of her outgoing attitude and creative ideas. LH, won the board over with an impressive resume, long line of contacts and previous work in crisis management and airport related Public Relations.

The benefit of having separate agencies in both disciplines, unlike previous years where a single group handled both creative advertising and public relations, can be summed up in one word: synergy. What Panama City Beach can expect are totally fresh ideas, new and far-reaching campaigns cooked up by a talented group of individuals. Lou Hammond will bring big-time contacts and a great understanding of fly markets while Fahlgren will invigorate Panama City Beach with ultra-creative ideas and new ways of implementation.

The timing couldn’t possibly be better and both agencies acknowledged how the new airport makes Panama City Beach a prime expansion city in America as the economy picks up. These two agencies will be presented contracts in the future and if negotiations can not be reached, the board will move to the companies that landed second in the rankings which were LKM and Hayworth.

In related news, we here, at PCBDaily are giddy just thinking about Panama City Beach’s future sans Y-Partnership.

Panama City Beach TDC: Y Partnership is O-U-T

On Thursday morning the TDC Marketing Committee met to decide on three potential agencies to run Panama City Beach future campaigns. While there were nearly two dozen requests for qualifications, only the top three would be chosen. Among those top chosen, there was one glaring omission: Y Partnership. The agency that has handled all of Panama City Beach’s Creative/Media Campaigns as well as Public Relations is, unofficially, out.

The top three agencies, broken into two disciplines, were chosen by the committee to give a presentation to the board for a final decision. The agencies broke down as follows:


1. Fahlgren

2. Beber Silverstein

3. LKM

Public Relations

1. Hayworth

2. Lou Hammond

3. Fahlgren

Although the committee initially thought to have separate agencies for each discipline, Fahlgren proved itself to be capable of doing both after being the chosen Agency at VisitFlorida for 10 years. No contracts talks have started but the length of contracts could be 2-3 years with an extension clause. The chosen agencies will give presentations to the board the week of September 7th, where the board will rank the three and try to ink a deal with the top agency.

Panama City Beach TDC will continue to use Y Partnership through September 30th.

10 Solutions for Panama City Beach’s Spring Break Problem

Before reading any further:

First, these are not my solutions, but solutions brought forth by attendees at the Spring Break community forum held by the Tourist Development Council this past Wednesday. Second, no single one of these is a final solution rather together, or in any combination, can help handle the raucous season order to benefit businesses and residents alike.


The idea is quite simple; Spring Break’s biggest problem isn’t the college breakers but the city’s and local businesses’ inability to manage them. If Panama City Beach is willing to accept its identity as a Spring Break destination, businesses can provide a clean, safe and respectful atmosphere for Spring Break guests. Without a doubt the college kids will act up, but if they are in a situation where they understand clearly the consequences of what they do and those consequences are enforced in a respectful way, that 10% or so of the rowdy ones will be weeded out. But, in order for this to work, Businesses have to take the initiative to be responsible for how things are managed and expect more from the city on their part.

Handle Public Relations

When you think of Spring Break on Panama City Beach, what do you see? Kids, rowdy and drunk, cruising the strip? Now, imagine what is being reported in other cities. In fact, go on youtube.com and type in Panama City Beach Spring Break and see what comes up. More drunken half-naked students going bonkers. For a city trying to change it’s image it is a PR nightmare. Now, while some of the outgoing public relations cannot be contained, some can. The idea is to corral what you can and then flood the markets with positive video and information about Spring Break on Panama City beach. It’s not difficult. One suggestion was that Panama City beach sponsor a scholarship program and go out and encourage eco-spring break. Panama City Beach shows the side of Spring Break it wants to show rather than allow youtube.com, MTV and the Travel Channel do it for us.

Enhance/Increase Law Enforcement

This one is big. Law enforcement must be not only visible during Spring Break but assertively enforcing the law with regularity. I am one to tell you I think our current Law Enforcement does a GREAT job during Spring Break but the fact of the matter is, they are woefully undermanned. It is physically impossible for them to cover the entire beach, while still taking the time to enforce laws even on a small scale. We need more officers during this time.

Year-round Marketing/Targeted Messaging

To handle the PR and flood news outlets is one thing, but truly focusing your marketing efforts is another, infinitely more successful, way of changing Spring Break. An example of this was talked about in the community forum. A gentleman said that we used MTV as a sort of gunshot trying to hit everyone with our message. But if we know that the problems mainly come from kids who, if evicted from hotels for bad behavior, can very easily go the two hours back home, we should be targeting kids in Ohio, Michigan and Chicago. With the new airport coming online this will be easier in the future, but the reality is, Spring Break fills the beaches but there are only so many rooms. If you fill the rooms with the kids that got your message rather than just anyone it will decrease the chance of problems occurring.

Signage Ordinances

This is a two-fold ordinance. On one hand you would have an ordinance requiring the posting of specific laws visibly in specific places, say, in hotel lobbies. Perhaps even having a large blinking sign at the entrances over Hathaway Bridge and 79 showing the frequently broken laws and establishing, before even the partying begins, that certain things will not be tolerated. The other is an ordinance restricting certain messages on signs throughout the beach. This is not something that will come easy, but signs that read “XXX or Xcstacy Sold Here” will only underscore the belief that Panama City Beach is a place that has no inhibitions.

Security Ratio Ordinances

This was an interesting idea brought up by Mr. Julian Bennet. He suggested we have a capacity/unit to security guard ratio. The idea is that for every, say, 100 people based on capacity or for every 25 units the establishment has at least 1 officer. This could do a number of things like provide jobs during the season and help out the limited law enforcement maintaining the beach. But most of all, it should keep the properties of businesses safer. The key is to hire quality security guards.


For those 3-6 weeks of Spring Break, the turtle lighting ordinance adopted by Bay County could be rescinded allowing businesses to fully light their properties. Businesses can have their beach and parking lots fully lit during Spring Break, dropping the risk of incidents and liability.

Drinking Ordinances/Kangaroo Court

Currently, Spring Breaker’s are allowed to drink outside of establishments. What does this mean? Higher chances of drinking and driving incidents and mindless behavior. There should be in ordinance in place that does not allow drinking outside of an establishment. If these laws are broken kids should be subject to the old “Kangaroo Court.” Make them pick up trash and bottles down Front Beach Road. Not only would you have cleaner streets but fewer drunken kids walking them.

Hospitality Training

Hospitality Training in its simplest form is really just knowing how to manage and host a group. As of right now, Panama City Beach severely lacks in standardized hospitality training and is in need of the service. Too often Spring Breakers are met with authority that is too laxed or too eager to punish. As Mr. Hilton, extensively experienced in hospitality, said; “we have to learn to hold the reins just enough to let them know they can have fun but there is someone else in control.” Panama City Beach is essentially trying to handle Spring Break based on past experience. It is time that we have training to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Provide More Activities

When Spring Breaker’s come to Panama City Beach, they come with a semester’s worth of bridled energy ready to explode. Frankly, there aren’t many things for them to explode onto except hotels and the few attractions Panama City Beach offers. In PCB’s golden years there was Miracle Strip and various small attractions that provided breakers something to do other than hit the clubs, hit the strip and hit each other.

Spring Break Forum: Answer to Cash vs. Chaos Conundrum? Management

Wednesday morning, the Panama City Beach TDC held a community forum for local residents to air out their opinions on the raucous season and to, together, find solutions to the polarizing can of worms. The comment of the morning came from Mr. Charles Hilton. The respected Mr. Hilton addressed the board directly and said, “If you are thinking of getting rid of anything in this economy, you’re out of your mind.” An attentive audience leaned in to listen as he went on. “It’s not about Spring Break, it’s just us screwing it up. We can’t afford to run off anyone, we need to learn how to manage Spring Break better. Spring Breakers are just people and we know how to manage people.”

His sentiment was repeated throughout the morning forum; Panama City Beach businesses and councils need to work together to better manage spring break. Peter Yesawich and Dr. Klages returned to reacquaint the community with their respective reports concluding that Spring Break has a negative impact on Panama City Beach’s image. The reports showed that Panama City Beach’s customer satisfaction during the month of March is 90.3% percent when talking to spring breakers but drops considerably to 56.5% when talking to guests who are visiting Panama City Beach in March but aren’t Spring Breakers. What this report underscored was the theme of the forum; people come to Panama City Beach during Spring Break and more will come after the airport, but the rowdy Spring Breakers need to be met with better management.

Several quotes were aimed at this notion. Mr. Jack Bishop acknowledged this by saying, “It’s not a question of whether we are in or out. We are in the business of Spring Break. But the crux of the problem is hosting. We host Spring Break. We just do a bad job of it.”

While there was lots of talk of management being the problem, there were just as many possible solutions spoken ranging from additional law enforcement and drinking ordinances to a better handling of public relations and a more targeted messaging campaign. One interesting comment came from Mr. Julian Bennet about creating a capacity/number of units to security ratio ordinance, meaning that a certain building capacity or certain number of units would require a certain number of security guards; i.e 1 guard every 25 units.

No final decisions were made, but it was clear that the future of Spring Break will not lie in marketing or advertising, but in Panama City Beach’s ability to manage the event properly.

Click here to see the 10 Spring Break Solutions

Klages Report: PCB Doing Better Than the Rest of the State

In Tuesday’s TDC meeting the thin audience listened in on a comprehensive presentation of the Klages Group’s spring report. The report, drawing data from 8500 units across Panama City Beach and interviewing around 800 or so people for the months of March, April and May, included hard data from average daily rates, visitor profiles and a survey of behavioral and motivational aspects of visitors. As it stated, Panama City Beach’s total economic impact over the aforementioned months yielded $261,385,914.00, up from last year’s $247 mil. While some numbers were down, like overall occupancy down 1.2%, ADR was up about a dollar from 2008 and the number of nights stayed went up nearly 7%. In our primary market of the Southeast, Panama City Beach saw a huge increase visitation up 27% while the Midwest dropped slightly in 2009 from 2008’s 94,800 visits to 91,400. One particularly interesting drop was the European market which saw a decline from 6.7% to 3.9%; a steep drop that leaves room for improvement. Dr. Klages, who presented the report, expressed the potential for the European market was strong with the new airport coming on line. Overall, Panama City Beach saw a large increase of visitors during spring, jumping from 2008’s 282,200 visitors to 2009’s 302,000 visitors.

Comparably, the rest of the state did not fare as well. In the most recent Smith Travel report, quoted in the Klages report, cities like Naples saw occupancy drop 15% and ADR drop nearly 8%. Miami saw a 9.5% drop in occupancy and an 11.2% decline in ADR. This trend was seen all over the state in destinations like Orlando, Sarasota and Clearwater. Overall, the state of Florida saw a 5.4% drop in occupancy and an 11 drop in ADR.

Other data shown in the report drew concern and disbelief from the board. The report stated that during spring Panama City Beach had an 89.9% approval rating as well as nearly 70% of visitors during spring were families or couples with only just over 10% visitors reported as singles. Mr. Buddy Wilkes acknowledged the incredulity saying, “I have some concerns about these numbers.” Dr. Klages did address the concerns stating that the interviewed could not be younger than 18 or in a state of intoxication.

Most surprising was that the tone of the Klages report proved far different than the recent Y Partnership focus groups. While Klages data showed Panama City Beach as a friendly, beautiful and prosperous community, Y Partnership’s focus group painted Panama City Beach as an underwhelming destination below the quality of nearby destinations like Destin and Gulf Shores. Still, in both reports, Panama City Beach was shown to be doing economically better than most communities throughout the state. Mayor Oberst underscored that point saying, “I think we have a lot to be thankful for.”

Related News

A question of potential carriers at the new airport arose, causing a wave of coy smiles to sweep across the board although no carrier was named. Dan Rowe did say that we can expect an announcement 6 – 7 months prior to the airport’s opening. Andy Phillips went on to say, “We are in the 11th hour and it’s critical that we have some unification. [Carriers] want this to be a regional effort, not just Bay County.”

Marketing Update

The Fall Marketing Campaign, which was originally to be themed “Fall in Love…With Panama City Beach,” has been changed to “Never-ending Summer.” Mr. Wilkes, the lone dissenter in the campaign said, “It sounds like more of the same: more traffic and more people just like summer. The most important thing is to sell our value. The fall is much quieter and cooler and we have value that can compete with anyone in the world.”

After persuasions from Mr. Rowe, it looks like “Never-ending Summer” will be the theme.

Does Spring Break Make PCB a Less Attractive Destination?

The answer to the title question is a categorical YES, demonstrated in almost “Duh!” fashion by a Y Partnership study. The study, presented at Tuesday’s TDC meeting by Y Partnership representative Peter Yesawich, showed that 3 times as many respondents, in a study that included 1,025 adults, believed Spring Break makes Panama City Beach a less attractive destination. While this conclusion, and other conclusions in the study, did not come as a surprise to me or those in the meeting attendance, what became apparent was that the debates were more than just Spring Break banter, but a commentary on Panama City Beach’s identity.

Dan Rowe during the meeting made a poignant statement, “We’re at a critical juncture approaching Spring Break 2010. Exactly 60 days from the opening of the new airport.” The question no doubt on everyone’s mind was how we present ourselves to this new markets. Do we condemn our relationship with College Spring Break and bid for a new clientele or do we hit the new markets hard with Spring Break advertising to maximize the season? Obviously, the question does not inspire a simple answer, but at the core of it we have to really ask ourselves who we are and what is the identity we are trying to assume? Are we the party town of old, are we Destin 2.0 or are we something different entirely?

In some way, and maybe I’m the only one, I’ve always likened Destin and Panama City Beach to siblings; Destin being the older, more civilized sister and Panama City Beach the crazy, fun-loving little brother. For years, this analogy fit quite well. But with recent developments Panama City Beach has changed; it grew up, as little brothers must eventually do, and is turning out to be quite a winner.

The reality is although Panama City Beach has indeed “grown up” enough to even make its older sister jealous, PCB differs from every other destination because at its heart it’s still the fun-loving life of the party. This is a sentiment even acknowledged by Andy Phillips, who said “We have a party reputation, folks, that’s just who we are. People come here because we are fun. They can come here and put lawn chairs in the back of Cadillac Escalades and cruise the strip.”

Any conversation about Spring Break, concurrently, is a conversation about Panama City Beach’s identity. To ask, “do we market to the College Students or the Family Spring Breakers during Spring Season” is merely the small scope of a much broader issue: who and what are we?

Take Orlando for example. They are an amusement destination and have completely embraced it: even guest service agents are trained to smile big, laugh and be able to tell you at least one Mickey Mouse story. Now, if Orlando suddenly wanted to become a stodgier business-traveler destination, they’d be in trouble. Which may be the very reason why destinations like Panama City Beach have such a hard time shaking the party-town stigma. Maybe, on some level, that’s just what they are.

All that being said, the solution to Panama City Beach’s Spring Break/Identity conundrum does not have an easy answer. Panama City Beach, frankly, is somewhere in between party and civility; like a frat boy, turned charming businessman. At some point a balance can be found and I believe Mr. Marty McDaniel, TDC chairman, hit on the key idea. “We are going to have to learn to evolve.”

Evolution is the key word. How do we evolve and what are we evolving into? The evolution of Panama City Beach may not yet be visible, but by defining and accepting our current identity, I think, we have the opportunity to gingerly guide it in the direction we want.

The truth is, after all the talk, what will probably happen is no more funds will be allocated to Spring Break and instead moved into beach conservation efforts and perhaps a little into Family Spring Break marketing. And, frankly, that’s where the money should go. We need to keep our best asset as clean as possible and Family Spring Break may be the next big thing. Spring Breakers of the college type will always come to Panama City Beach whether you market to them or not. You may hate them or love them, but at least at the moment, they seem to know us a little better than we know ourselves.

The mixture of Family and College Spring Break will work. I’ve seen it and you’ve seen it. Every year in February and early March there is a mixture of Spring Breakers and Snowbirds. The Snowbirds take just enough rooms to keep the beach from being overrun by students, which in turn lessens the amount of incidents and overall beach filth. Somehow, both groups are able to seamlessly coexist. The college breakers are at the  clubs with no worries, the Snowbirds are entertained by the crazy antics and perhaps even a little nostalgia and everyone’s happy; a little bit of responsibility and a little bit of fun. I suppose that is the inevitable destination of our evolution, question is how to get there unscathed.

On Aug. 19 the TDC will gather again to hold a community forum for PCB residents to express their opinion on the matter before any final decisions are made.

Could This Be Love? TDC: Fall Marketing Preview

During Tuesday’s TDC Marketing Committee meeting concerning Fall/Winter marketing efforts, one of the most memorable, albeit most chuckle-inducing, comments came from Jack Bishop, who said, “selling Panama City Beach in the Fall is like selling swimsuits to Eskimos.” Well, while that statement has been true in the past, if the marketing committee and Y-partnership have their way, Eskimos everywhere might want to start shopping for sandals.

The phrase that stole the short meeting was a simple and catchy, “”Fall in Love Again with Panama City Beach,” a phrase unveiled by Peter Yesawich of Y Partnership which could provide a solid character for Panama City Beach’s spotty Fall Season. The romantic phrase may seem a bit transparent initially, but the idea behind it, as explained by Yesawich, is to target adult couples aged 45-64 who, once the kids have gone back to school, are looking for a reason to vacation. Based on Y Partnership’s research, 58% of leisure travelers took a trip with their spouses (no children) and did so most frequently during fall. He believes it’s possible to encourage that market by showcasing the many things to “love” about getting away to Panama City Beach.

This phrase’s lure hides within its applicability: create lots of small, festive events and tie in private sector business into one theme; i.e “Fall In Love with Shopping at Pier Park or Fall In Love with the Seafood Wine and Music Festival,” and all of a sudden you have mettle, a framework for which ideas can be attached. Yesawich’s plan is to apply the love theme as a seasonal draw similar to South Walton’s Autumn Tides promotion where a season’s worth of events are empowered by uniting them all under the same theme. Judging by South Walton’s success, it’s pretty a good idea.

The idea instantly became popular among the marketing committee and the meeting attendees. Even Mr. Buddy Wilkes found the love theme intriguing saying, “ ‘Fall in Love again’ may be the way to invite people to come see the new [Panama City] Beach and fall in love with it all over again. It’s easily applicable to other events.” Easy application to events, package deals and the hugely under-appreciated wedding market is what gives the theme life; the question remains as to what will make it work? The answer may not be as easily accepted.

Mr. Yesawich’s theme is merely a spring board idea. For the idea to take off, businesses locally have to buy into it collectively. Within the theme, condos, hotels and attractions are encouraged to promote couples and feature promotional rates and incentives to potential tourists.  If everyone gets on that spring board and actually get out and promote it, the theme has a real chance of lifting off. This idea isn’t necessarily something that will boost fall business over one season, but could, over time, create a bit of a buzz for future seasons. If you can imagine a season filled with street festivals, outdoor concerts, wine tastings, music and art shows coupled with the seasonally low rates tied in to packages for couples, it all seems, from the onset, like a can’t-miss deal. But, its a long way from done.

The marketing committee plans to reconvene in 2 weeks to talk media, costs and coordination of what could be a truly successful attempt at generating fall business.

As Dan Rowe put it, “We must provide [potential tourists] a compelling invitation.” Is there a better invitation than good ol’ fashioned romance? You be the judge.