January PCB Tourism Interest Activity Up

Jason Koertge has an awesome vacation rental business in Panama City Beach that focuses on remarkable properties right on the gulf.  They range from 1 to 4 bedrooms, they’re clean, and amazing.  He can be found lurking at PCBLP.com.

All signs are pointing to a great tourism season in Panama City Beach.  Last year we had record breaking numbers and we expect much the same for the 2012 tourism season.

Many of our rental condos at PCBLP are booked up all summer already and we’re hearing much the same from our industry partners.

Visitor Service Inquiries and Web Site Activity

On a monthly basis, tourists from around the country (and the globe) inquire on more information about Panama City Beach through a variety of sources.  The numbers below are approximate, here are the top 5.

  • Website Inquiries: 3,500
  • Rea.Fun.Beach.Club ’11/’12: 2,250
  • Oprah Magazine: 2,150
  • Compass Family Travel: 1,750
  • Beach Chamber of Commerce: 600

Website Activity

A couple years ago the Tourist Development Council (TDC) launched a new website and a whole new effort to market the beach.  The campaign, dubbed Real.Fun.Beach has done loads in acquiring visibility for our little tourist town.  And through the BP disaster and the subsequent compensatory marketing funds that came from it, they captured the attention of national media time and time again.

January 2011 activity

  • Number of visits: 93,430
  • Length of session: 4 minutes 22 seconds
  • Pageviews per visit: 5.85
  • Unique visitors: 77,222

January 2012 activity

  • Number of visits: 119,220
  • Length of session: 3 minutes 57 seconds
  • Pageviews per visit: 4.9
  • Unique visitors: 98,241

Top website visitor states

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas
  4. Alabama
  5. Tennessee
  6. Illinois
  7. Ohio
  8. Indiana
  9. Kentucky
  10. Michigan

Top visitor service inquiry states

  1. Georgia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Ontario
  4. Ohio
  5. Florida
  6. Alabama
  7. Indiana
  8. Illinois
  9. Michigan
  10. Kentucky

Seafood Fest May Get Another $150k from CVB

The oil spill threat this summer took it’s toll on the opportunity for us to have a slammin’, jammin’ summer, but it wasn’t all bad.  Our image was certainly tarnished, our tourism numbers were down a bit, but on the plus side, the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau received $2 million from BP to be used for marketing the beaches of Panama City Beach.  This influx of marketing money has saved our CVB $750,000 from their regular marketing budget this year so far and has freed up some cash to use in other arenas.

Continue reading “Seafood Fest May Get Another $150k from CVB”

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 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.

AGENDA: TDC to Review Media/Public Relations Agencies

At this week’s TDC Meeting, Susan Estler Vice President of Markets, perhaps still reeling from last week’s community forum on Spring Break, will present to the board her recommendations on creative, media buying and public relations agencies for review.


Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Panama City Beach
Thursday, August 27, 2009
9:00 a.m.
Board Room, Visitor Information Center







To download the agenda please click here.

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.

So How's that TDC Website and Summer Marketing Campaign Performing?

Six months ago, the community, businesses and, well, anyone who has a vested interest in Panama City Beach waited with bated breath for the unveiling of the new marketing campaign bent on rebranding Panama City Beach. Loads of marketing dollars were spent in an unprecedented effort, at least for PCB, that included big time cable TV buys, a $50,000 video competition, social media networking, microblogging and print buys all aimed at guiding potential PCB vacationers to the new and improved Panama City Beach website. So, how did it do? If I may, allow me to send the first congratulatory pat on the back to the TDC and marketing committee for a job well done.

Unlike most destinations, based on a recent Klages report, Panama City Beach is doing well. While all around the state 2009 hotel occupancy and ADR have dropped considerably since 2008, Panama City Beach has managed to keep itself in the black ink. In fact, 2008’s total economic impact for Panama City Beach spring quarter yielded 247 million whereas the 2009 numbers surged to 261 million. The total amount of visitors for the spring quarter increased as well. But let’s look at some actual recent numbers.

Tourist Development Tax Collections

PCB June – Down 4.5%

2008 – $1,223,300
2009 – $1,167,681

PCB YTD – Up 1.6%

2008 – $4,091,591
2009- $4,158,268

Unique visitors to the website http://www.visitpanamacitybeach.com

April visitors – 44,277
May visitors – 64,753
June visitors – 91,932
July visitors – 93,693

Social Marketing (Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, Registered Users)

April – 9,624
May – 14,266
June – 24,694
July – 35,198

March – May Visitor Sentiments

2008 – 88.5%
2009 – 89.9

Intent to Return
2008 – 69.6
2009 – 76.9

Refer to a Friend
2008 – 70.7
2009 – 72.8

Occupancy and Visitation

March – 62.6 % Occupancy – 711,660 Visitor Days
April – 46.2% Occupancy – 482,560 Visitor Days
May – 49.2% Occupancy – 562, 002 Visitor Days
Quarter – 52.7% Occupancy – 1,756,222 Visitor Days

Judging by these numbers, one can very easily see the impact of the campaign. It must be considered that these numbers are during a recession and a severe lag in travel. Similar destinations are not seeing the type of visitation Panama City Beach has seen evidenced by the article in the New York Times that referenced Panama City Beach.

While there was debate about how much money to spend and where to spend it, what cannot be debated is the campaign’s overall success. Note to the TDC: Keep up the good work guys.

AGENDA: TDC/CVB to discuss the Spring Break Study

The Tourist Development Council and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau have called a special combined meeting to discuss the results of the spring break perception study. This will, no doubt create an interesting debate on one of Panama City Beach’s most polarizing topics. They also plan to set a date for a community discussion forum.

Special Called Meeting


Bay County Tourist Development Council
Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Panama City Beach
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
1:00 p.m. Council Room
PCB City Hall



A. Invocation
B. Pledge of Allegiance



A. Review and Discuss the Results From the Spring Break Perception Study And Set Date For The Spring Break Community Forum, Mr. Dan Rowe, President



To download this agenda click here.

TDC/CVB Special Meeting Agenda – Summer Marketing

As discussed in previous TDC/CVB meeting on summer marketing efforts the board agreed to meet again before the summer season is in full swing to consider adding money and additional efforts to the summer marketing campaign. This meeting should examine the marketing avenue those additional monies will take. Should be an interesting one. Below is the agenda for this meeting.



Bay County Tourist Development Council

Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.

Panama City Beach

Friday, May 29, 2009 – 2:00 p.m. – Board Room, Visitor Information Center



A. Invocation

B. Pledge of Allegiance





Download the Agenda Here