PCB TDC to Meet, Discuss Summer Marketing Updates, Bed Tax Numbers

Tuesday, August 24, the Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council (known around these parts as the TDC) will meet to discuss various invoices to be paid, the possible build of a new Monument Sign, this summer’s bed tax numbers from June and July and a few other things that we’ll report on in greater detail tomorrow.

It’s been a couple of months since they’ve held a TDC meeting, but they’re usually pretty fun.  And, we’re always on top of covering them and providing the latest as to what’s happening, live, during the meeting.  Instead of cluttering up your Facebook feed with status updates on our page, we’ll hop over to our Twitter feed and post regular updates on what’s happening during the meeting.

For reference, here are the links.

The meeting will be at 9 am and will be held in the Council Room at the City Buildings in Panama City Beach.

Read on for the full agenda.

Or, you can just click here to download it.

Continue reading “PCB TDC to Meet, Discuss Summer Marketing Updates, Bed Tax Numbers”

Volleyball Chick Faints, PCB Goes Viral

Wednesday morning, Nikki Allen, Director of Operations for the University of Southern California’s women’s volleyball program was interviewed on WMBB by Wayne Gentry and went down in YouTube fame.  As she was being interviewed by Wayne Gentry, she fainted on live tv.  WMBB was kind enough to upload it to YouTube and now, three days later the video has over 260,000 views.

Apparently Nikki flew in from California that morning, which must have been very early as the time on screen during the interview was 6:20.  I also read that this was her first time on TV and she was very nervous.  Whatever the case, I’ve been told that she’s ok now.

The faint happened behind Sharky’s Beach Club on Panama City Beach and was accompanied by Dan Rowe.  By the way, does anyone know what the question was that Dan answered Tanzania?

Walton Area Chamber Luncheon to Discuss Tourist Tax Dollars Wednesday

The Walton Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its monthly Power of Business Luncheon on Wednesday, March 4th at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort at 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.  The program will be focused on the upcoming tourist season and how tourist tax dollars affect the Northwest Florida economy.

At the luncheon, Sonny Mares, Executive Director of the Beaches of South Walton and Dan Rowe, President/CEO – Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) will be on hand to discuss the tourist season that is fast approaching and the 5th cent bed tax that will be used primarily to attract a low cost airline carrier to Northwest Florida.

To register, please call the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce at (850) 267-0683 or email info@waltonareachamber.com.

I’ll be there.

Bay County TDC Approves Bed Tax Increase

In a meeting that ended in great applause, the Bay County Tourist Development Council unanimously voted to approve the increase in bed tax collections from 3% to 5%.  With public comment from pillars of the Panama City Beach community, such as Charlie Hilton, Julian Bennett, Julie Hilton and Joe Tannehill, good arguments were made for and against the increase with a unified concern for our area.

The motion to approve suggested that one penny go towards marketing, including helping attract a low-cost carrier.  Half of the second new cent would go to beach cleaning, safety awareness and signage throughout the beach.  The second half of the second new cent will go to capital projects such as new ball fields at Frank Brown Park or the proposed improvements to Aaron Bessant Park in Pier Park.

“I think we should delay, not defeat the 5th cent increase,” Bennett Sr. said discussing that we need to put together a comprehensive plan as to how the 5th sent will be spent.

“We need to work on collecting what we have,” said Julie Hilton, “before we try and get more.”

Joe Tannehill, chairman of the Airport Authority board was the first to comment during the public comment portion of the meeting.  He voiced his support of the bed tax increase and assured the board and confirmed to the board and the audience that the airport was ahead of schedule and under budget.  He stressed that essential to the area’s success was the success of the airport and essential to the airport’s success was getting the word out to the rest of the country that we are open for business.

He emphasized that a growing number of travelers to our area will be from out of the country, but we need marketing dollars to underscore that effort. He also confirmed discussions with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Peter Yesawich from YPartnership presented on why we need to increase our bed tax stressing that any increase had no direct impact on his firm or his firm’s relationship with the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

His presentation explained that we had advertising budgets that were 1/2 and 1/3 of that of our direct competitors.  He also stressed that we needed to have a vehicle in place to support the new airport and any low-cost airline that may come into our area.  He mentioned that these are perilous times for the airline industry and that any airline would find great comfort knowing they had some financial support here in Panama City Beach.  His presentation explicated the importance of having a harmonious allocation of marketing dollars and capital improvement dollars.

Yesawich said that our future visitors are not “legacy visitors” or those returning to our area, but new visitors.  He explained that we need to expand our marketing reach to outside our traditional market and that we need a broader visitor base.

Buddy Wilkes, owner of Shipwreck Island Waterpark underscored this point in saying that we’ve lost our legacy visitors already and that we must focus on new customers.

There has been much discussion elsewhere and here on pcbdaily that we need to work harder to collect the rent collectors that aren’t paying instead of trying to raise the tax.  I agree and disagree with this.

We need to change our collection process and the way it is enforced.  Actually, that is a false statement.  We need to enforce the bed tax collection as right now, it is not being enforced at all.  What happens to those that do not collect?  Nothing.  Period.  So, how do they figure out who is collecting rent, but not paying the bed tax?  I don’t know, but there are smart people than me that can figure this all out, and it needs to happen, NOW.

Bill Kinsall, Bay County Clerk-elect reassured the board and audience during the public comment section that he would do everything in his power to make their collection process and research to who isn’t paying more efficient.  He said the whole process will be under scrutiny and they will figure out how to fix the system.

Julie Hilton mentioned that she thought that we may be seeing 50% of the total possible bed tax revenue due to people not paying and that an increase may push more to not pay.  I cannot speculate on the number, but I totally agree with her in that the number is probably larger than we think.  We need to figure out a way to determine this.  I also think we need to enable some sort of enforced consequence to be imposed on those that do not pay.

Yes, we need a very comprehensive plan to exactly how we’ll spend each penny of the increase, yes we need to figure out how to collect from who isn’t paying right now, but we also need more money to be sure we are ready to spread the word about Panama City Beach to the world when the new airport comes online.  We also need to be sure we continue to improve our area at the same rate our competition is improving their areas, or we will become a has-been.

The argument that if we increase our rates that we’ll lose tourists just isn’t valid.  An increase of 2% will yeild an increase in room rates of $20 for a week’s stay at $1000.  Is someone going to be deterred by this?  No.  Will they even know about the change?  No.  Tourists don’t ask what tax rate they are paying and they aren’t going to change their mind for a measly 2%.

Good job TDC, Bay County Commissioners, please take heed, we need this for our area.

Related:  Bed Tax Increase Set in Motion

TDC Bed Tax Committee Meeting Agenda for Wednesday

I know, I know, they changed the name to Revenue Enhancement Committee.

Wednesday December 3, 2008, the Revenue Enhancement Committee will meet to further discuss development costs from the strategic plan and get an update on destination marketing from Peter Yesawich from Y partnership.

If you remember from the last Revenue Enhancement Committee, 4 major points were discussed, TDC Marketing and Awareness, Special Events Marketing, Sports Marketing, and Destination Marketing.  The estimated costs tagged with everything proposed totaled more than $52 million.

This meeting, I believe we should see a greater explanation into these costs and some greater detail as to what is feasible and what is not.

Download the agenda here.


Bay County Tourist Development Council
Panama City Beach
Wednesday, December 3, 2008              1:00 p.m.        Board Room, Visitor
Information Center





V.    UPDATE ON DESTINATION MARKETING, Mr. Peter Yesawich, YPartnership



TDC's $52 million improvement iniative

Wednesday, the TDC’s Revenue Enhancement Committee (fancy for bed tax committee) met to discuss improvement ideas for Panama City Beach and how to fund it all.

The ideas range from a new beach trash disposal system to a grass amphitheatre with bathroom and concessions facilities at Aaron Bessant Park.

The ideas stem from the Strategic Plan and include:

  • TDC Marketing and Awareness
    • Welcome to the Beach campaign which would include welcome signs west of the Hathaway Bridge and along Highway 79, and replacing existing signs.
    • New beach trash disposal system to replace the existing blue refuse containers.
    • Beach safety campaign to increase public awareness about the flag warning system and fund additional flag poles. (THIS ISN’T ENOUGH, PEOPLE, AND YOU KNOW IT!)
    • Estimated total cost of $500,000 per year.
  • Special Events Marketing
    • Construct a permanent stage suitable for concerts and theatrical performances at Aaron Bessant Park, at Pier Park.
    • Build an amphitheatre ‘bowl’ with a grass covered berm with restroom and concession space on the back/underside of the grass ‘bowl’.  Should be capable of a 5,000 capacity.
    • Create space for tents, vendor areas, or other festival support areas in the flat areas of the park.
    • Estimated total coast of $5 million

I think this is a really neat idea, and definitely worth looking into, but we need to be planning for 25,000 people, not 5,000 people.  Aaron Bessant Park needs some renovation, but will never have the capability to have anything much larger than the summer Concerts in the Park series.  We need to be looking at improving larger capacity facilities, like Frank Brown Park.

  • Sports Marketing – Frank Brown Park
    • Develop two additional ‘pinwheels’ of softball/youth baseball fields with the appropriate infrastructure.
    • Make two of the fields in the new ‘pinwheels’ the ‘marquee’ fields with additional seating, dugouts, press boxes, etc., one for baseball, one for softball.
    • Look at building a warm-up pool and permanent seating at the aquatic center to enhance potential at attracting regional swimming competitions.
    • Enhance the equestrian facilities
    • Estimated total cost is $7.5 to $10 million
  • Sports Marketing – Sports Village Complex (in addition to Frank Brown Park, would need to acquire additional land)
    • Develop indoor field house to expand offerings to include court and mat sports.
    • Develop 8 to 12 rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, etc. Some would have grass, others artificial turf
    • Develop 8 full-sized baseball fields for additional tournaments and practicing facilities.
    • Estimated total cost is $33 to $35 million
  • Destination Marketing
    • Begin international marketing efforts when the new airport comes online and our area becomes more easily accessed.
    • Increase domestic advertising – more money is needed in order to fully penetrate our core markets and expand outside the southeast (or we could just use the $500k that was wasted on the Summer White Sale campaign for something that is more innovative, creative, and effective)
    • Enhance the Visitor Center with new technology and look and feel
    • Estimated total cost is $1 to $2 million

Now, where did all these numbers come from?  That is an unknown as of now, just estimations.  The committee requested of Dan and Staff to ‘zero-base’ the numbers and give details to how much each aspect of these improvements will cost, ideally to have everything spelled out by the December TDC meeting.  The goal is to have everything in order to request an additional 2cents be added to the bed tax first part of the year.

Staff counsel, Doug Sale said that from implementation to actual collection could be up to 90 days, so if they could get the tax implemented first of the year, collections could start rolling in for the new season in spring break.

I’m in total agreement that we need to collect additional bed tax in order to keep up with the competition.  I’ve not been too impressed with the way the money has been spent in the past, however.  I will give kudos to TDC Chair Andy Phillips for staying on everyone to be sure the numbers included will have some specificity in the near future.

TDC Agenda – Marketing Committee Meeting

Well, this will be the first meeting for the new marketing committee, and it’s sure to be a fun one!  Looks like they’ll be talking about Responsibilities and Procedures, and The Sunshine Law.  Can’t wait.

We’ll also be going over the marketing plan and hear from the YPartnership team.  See ya there!



Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Panama City Beach
Tuesday, September 23, 2008                 1:00 p.m.        Board Room, Visitor Information




IV.    CHAIRMAN’S WELCOME, Mr. Buddy Wilkes, Chairman


VI.    INTRODUCTIONS, Ms. Susan Estler, VP of Marketing

VII.    OVERVIEW OF MARKETING PLAN, Ms. Susan Estler, VP of Marketing, Mr. Dan Rowe, President, and YPartnership Team





Click here to download the agenda.

9/8/08 TDC/CVB: Strategic Plan Adopted & More!

8 of the 9 board members were in attendance. Rick Russell was absent.

Bed Tax Collections: Ms. Charlene Honnen, Tourist Development Tax Specialist, reported that while YTD collections were up 1.8%, the July collections were down from the prior year. She also reported that there are currently 1522 collectors representing approximately 12,000 units registered with her office.

PCB Seafood, Wine & Music Festival: Mr. Jack Bishop made an extensive presentation on his organization’s planning for the October festival. The CVB is the festival’s primary sponsor and is contributing $50,000.00 in financial support. He gave a walk-through of the festival’s web site, explained all of the marketing efforts, and also explained the festivals “green” efforts. He also explained that his organization will be collecting demographic date from all ticket purchasers and expects to provide extensive date to the CVB. Bishop also reported that his organization was already considering hosting a spring festival for 2009 during the shoulder season between Easter and Memorial Day. Finally, he expressed his belief that the community should continue to make improvements to the grounds at Frank Brown Park to assist with future festivals. He discussed the electrical improvements made by the circus and explained how they were more specifically geared to the needs of the circus than he would have desired. He reported that his organization hopes to make permanent facility upgrades with each festival that will be helpful to future users.

Fall Promotion Update: Ms. Susan Estler, the CVB’s VP of Marketing, explained the extension of the Summer White Sale through October. Although online marketing designed to draw visitors to the CVB’s site continues, the primary print and radio advertising has been completed. The partner offers have been recently updated and now include 52 partners. Since the program began, there have been 85,000 website sessions and 23,000 coupon downloads.

Strategic Plan: President Dan Rowe thoroughly discussed the final Strategic Plan that is the result of two public sessions and input from the board and community. The final key initiatives are: 1. Enhance the visitor experience at Panama City Beach; 2. Develop Panama City Beach into a year-round destination; 3. Effectively market Panama City Beach to build occupancy; 4. Diligently protect Panama City Beach’s primary natural resource – the beach. “Potential strategies for funding the initiatives” has been added as a separate section. At the President’s request, the board unanimously voted to adopt the plan.

Download the entire 2008 Strategic Plan.

Marketing Committee Update: Committee Chairman Buddy Wilkes advised the board that he had made the decision to make some changes to the committee membership to add some new voices. Phillip Griffitts, Jr. (Sugar Sands Resort/La Quinta) and Russ Smith(Towne of Seahaven/Sharky’s/Hammerhead Fred’s) will retain their seats. New appointees are: Felicia Cook(Marketing Director for Pier Park), Amy Harris(Royal American Hospitality), Annie Holcomb(Oaseas Management), Lee Ann Leonard (By the Sea Resorts), and myself, Bryan Durta. The board voted unanimously in support of the new committee. I would like to thank Mr. Wilkes for including me on the committee as an involved citizen. The committee will continue to meet on an as needed basis as the board requests. The first meeting has been scheduled for September 23rd.

Off Shore Drilling: President Rowe discussed the possibility of the board reconsidering previous positions opposing drilling off the shore of Florida. Rowe explained that a meeting of Florida CVB’s is being held next month to discuss the issue and he suggested the board delay any action until he can report back.

Beach Damage from Hurricane Gustav: President Rowe reported that it is still unknown whether there has been any damage to the beach resulting from Gustav. While the profile is currently deflated(flatter), Ms. Lisa Ambruster has advised that the height will likely build back. There is a possibility of seeking emergency repair funds from governmental agencies if the board desires. This will likely require a survey costing approximately $100,000.00 and Rowe suggested that the board wait for a recommendation from its beach contractors before making a decision.

Interactive Agency Search: President Rowe reported that the application deadline has passed and 6 proposals have been received. The sub-committee will bring its recommendation to the board after a complete analysis.

Delta In-flight Magazine Article: Although it was not an agenda item, Board Member Yonnie Patronis brought up an issue concerning a 10 page article on the Emerald Coast that appears in the current magazine. Mr. Patronis reported that the article included information on Coastal Vision 3000 and most of the panhandle, while totally ignoring Panama City Beach.

My Last Meeting Report: Due to my appointment to the CVB’s Marketing Committee announced today, my personal standards require that I discontinue preparing the TDC/CVB meeting reports for PCBDaily. I would like to thank Jason for providing the opportunity to write them over the past year, and know that Jason and Kirk are ready to take up the slack. I will, of course, still be here contributing to the site where appropriate. I have enjoyed preparing the reports and hope that everyone has found them to be informative and fair. I welcome comments and suggestions from anyone interested in our destination, regardless of whether you are a resident or a visitor. Thank you.

-Bryan Durta

TDC Director Dan Rowe to Host Friday at the Beach

Panama City Beach, FL (September 2, 2008)— On Friday, September 12th, join Dan Rowe, Executive Director of the TDC/CVB, at the Chamber’s monthly Friday at the Beach for a special presentation on the 2009 Convention & Visitors Bureau Marketing Initiative.  Net-working at the event, held at Edgewater Beach Resort, begins at 7:30 am with the presentation running from 8:00 to 9:00 am.  This Friday at the Beach is sponsored by Edward Jones Investments, Comcast and Thunder Beach Productions.

Friday at the Beach is designed to share ideas and opportunities that will affect the beaches area and local businesses.  Each program presents community and business leaders in a casual, “face-to-face” setting.  This event is open to the public at no charge, however RSVP is required.  Please contact Bertie Reynolds or Joyce Kidd at The Greater Panama City Beaches Chamber of Commerce, at (850) 235-1159.

Panama City Beach Extends ‘White Sale’ For Fall

Panama City Beach Extends ‘White Sale’ For Fall,
Offers Discounts From 50 Travel Partners

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (August 21, 2008) – You can still catch the wave of savings at one of America’s top beaches — Panama City Beach, Fla. This award-winning destination on the Gulf of Mexico extends its Summer White Sale, offering deep discounts on weekend getaways and vacations well into the fall.

Continue reading “Panama City Beach Extends ‘White Sale’ For Fall”