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

Notes from the March 20, 2008 TDC/CVB Marketing Committee Meeting

Only 7 of the 11 members were present. Absent were Philip Griffits, Jr., John Hamati, Bill Spann, and Debi Knight.


President Dan Rowe explained that he would like the Committee and Board to begin discussing their plans, if any, for this segment ahead of the upcoming budget process. Rowe also reported that he has had discussions with the CVB’s agency about completing additional research to determine what the year-round effect is of our spring break image. Image concerns were also expressed by a majority of the committee members present. Although no formal vote took place, the majority of the committee expressed an interest in either discontinuing funding completely or at least changing it to special event funding. If changed to special event funding, the CVB would only consider providing financial support after an organization or co-op made a formal request for financial support.

Click the “more” link for the others points covered in the meeting.

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A Review of the 2008 TDC/CVB Spring Break Marketing Plan

As I am writing this, our first group of college spring breakers are on the road heading to liven up our beach. No one knows whether the TDC/CVB’s College Spring Break Marketing Plan will end up being a success, a failure, or somewhere in between. Hopefully President Dan Rowe has a plan for calculating a reliable estimate of how many college students visit our destination during the four-week period this year and what the actual economic impact is to Bay County. Lately, I have heard the estimate being mentioned that 250,000 college students came here for Spring Break last year and that we are expecting the same or better this year. However, it is my understanding that the TDC/CVB has no data to actually support this 250,000 figure. I am pleased that the new TDC/CVB board has been very diligent in questioning the attendance and economic impact of other special events; however, I do not believe that they have had the same diligence in questioning College Spring Break. But regardless of how successful the MTV plan ends up being, it is clear that the plan has some major problems.

Continue reading “A Review of the 2008 TDC/CVB Spring Break Marketing Plan”

Notes and Comments from the 2/12/08 TDC/CVB Board Meeting

8 of the 9 board members were present. Absent was Marty McDaniel. It was also reported that McDaniel is no longer employed by Royal American Hospitality. Since Mr. McDaniel has accepted employment with another collector, TDC/CVB Attorney Doug Sale advised that both he and the Bay County Attorney did not see any problem with McDaniel retaining his board seat.

After the “more” link, info on the bed tax collection, Coastal Vision 3000, and College Spring Break Co-Op.

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Panama City Beach TDC Meeting Notes – Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance

Notes of the December 19, 2007 TDC Meeting by Bryan J Durta.

8 of the 9 board members were present with Gary Walsingham absent.

Chairman Andy Phillips announced the meeting schedule for 2008.  The board will meet monthly on the 2nd Tuesday of each month with two exceptions.  The regular January meeting will be on the 9th and the November meeting will be on the 12th.  It was also announced that the Strategic Planning Retreat will be held on January 22nd.  In addition, Peter Yesawich of Y Partnership will make a public presentation on January 21st concerning the state of the tourism industry and how Panama City Beach fits in.

Mexico Beach Community Development District:  Tourism Director of Mexico Beach, Lynn Marshall, presented the 2007-08 Mexico Beach Community Development Council Budget and Program of Work to the TDC.  The total budget is $150,300.00.  TDC Office Manager Marcia Bush advised that it was her opinion that the budget met the statutory requirements.  The board voted 8-0 to recommend that the BCC approve the  contract with the CDD.  The CDD is the Mexico Beach equivalent of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

FL DEP Beach Management Funding Assistance Grant Agreement:  Lisa Ambruster of Sustainable Beaches LLC, recommended approval a grant agreement for the beach erosion control activities and the board approved the agreement 8-0. The DEP share of the $3,950,000 cost is $1,123,75 with the TDC being
responsible for the remaining $2,826,225.

Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance Workshop:
Audience member Julian Bennett distributed a proposed motion to the board providing that the board make no restrictions on the number or length of public comments concerning the ordinance.  The motion was made by Mayor Oberst and passed 8-0. Chairman Phillips then explained to the board and audience that the purpose of the workshop was to hear input from both sides to assist the board in making a recommendation to the City of Panama City Beach and the BCC.

The draft ordinance written by staff was then presented by Doug Sale, TDC Legal Counsel.  Sale advised that the scope of the board’s work can be limited to the connection between the ongoing nourishment project and the Endangered Species Act.  He explained that the board did not need to be concerned about whether or not the sea turtles actually deserved or needed additional protection.  Sale also explained that the board was dealing with the 2006 pronouncement by U.S. Fish & Wildlife that they would not continue to provide positive consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concerning our renourishment project with a ordinance.  It is Sale’s opinion that the Corps would not continue to approve future projects without this positive consultation with USF&W.

Presentations by Janet Missi and Lorna Patrick of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service were then made.  Missi advised that the Endangered Species Act was invoked if just one turtle was impacted and that the Service did not believe that the public safety concerns of the community were legitimate.  Patrick advised that the Service finds the nest relocation option to be inconsistent with the Act.  Patrick also explained that any post-1996 development south of the Coastal Control Line should already have met the Service’s turtle protection requirements assuming no deviation from the development orders approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had been followed.  Patrick also advised that the Service would allow the ordinance to ignore both interior lighting and  properties north of the southernmost road.  In response to a question from President Rowe, Patrick made it clear that the Service expected the TDC to follow their previous agreement to make their recommendation no later than December 31, 2007.  In response to a question by Rick Russell concerning the proposed compliance date of May 2009, Patrick explained that a compliance period of 1-2 years would be acceptable while Russell’s suggestion of a 5-7 period would not.

Kennard Watson of St. Andrew Bay Resource Management (aka Bay County Turtle Watch) discussed his group’s monitoring program and the 2002 West End Pilot Turtle Protection Ordinance.  Watson explained that he felt that the ordinance had been successful at reducing hatchling disorientation and suggested that the Board consider just extending the 2002 Ordinance to the entire beach.

Dr. Fletemeyer then discussed his 2006 lighting survey report prepared for the TDC.  Julian Bennet assisted with his presentation.  Although acknowledging that his study had problems, Fletemeyer defended his report that was rejected by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service mainly due to the methodology used.  Fletemeyer also expressed his belief that the Service’s emphasis on beachfront lighting will not solve the issue since there were
many other impediments to hatchlings successfully reaching adulthood.  For example, he explained that Frank Brown Park was the worst light polluter on the beach.  The Doctor also expressed his belief that relocation of turtle nests would be just as effective as a lighting ordinance and a better choice for this area due to economic concerns.  In response to a question from Marty McDaniel, Fletemeyer announced that he believed the positive effects from staff’s proposed ordinance would be zero or at least minor.  In response to a question from Mayor Oberst, Fletemeyer explained that the Service’s position that a lighting ordinance would have no effect on public safety conflicted with the opinion’s of three public safety experts. Counsel Sale suggested again that the Board deal with the fit between the renourishment project and the Endangered Species Act.  Sale also expressed his opinion that Fletemyer’s concerns would be better dealt with at the state or federal level.

After extensive comments from the public, Board Attorney Sale then made some suggestions to the board concerning the ordinance.  First, he advised that the Service is likely to reject any grandfathering of existing properties. He suggested that Board instead exempt specific lighting fixtures that can be proven to have no greater effect on our renourished beach that it would have had on our pre-1998 unnourished beach.  Sale explained that it was his opinion that even this limited grandfathering might be unacceptable to the Service.  He recommended that relocation not be addressed since it would be very difficult to defend in any legal proceedings.  Sale also recommended the board follow the TDC’s prior agreement to suggest approval of a lighting ordinance no later than December 31, 2007.  Sale then distributed and explained a new proposed ordinance that he completed last night after discussion with the community and the Service.

The Board then voted to continue the meeting on Friday at 9AM after the members and community had the opportunity to study Sale’s new proposed