We’re Looking for Aqua, Splash and Majestic Owners [RENTALS]

Our vacation rental business is growing leaps and bounds and we’re gearing up for summer!  We are looking to bring on some fantastic condos in a few fabulous resorts, specifically Aqua, Splash and Majestic Beach Resort.

There are a variety of reasons we love these resorts, including the fact they are all very nice, tend to rent extremely well and guests love to return to them year after year.

A little about who we are.

As you have come to know, one of our sister companies (my company to be specific 😉  ) is a short term vacation rental company.  We manage 30+ amazing rental condos on the beach in a variety of resort locations.  Our successful management program is unique in many ways and we’re looking to expand.  We offer complete and full service management, handling everything from rentals, maintenance, upkeep and cleaning.

There are a lot of things that set us apart from our competition, but a few of the major differences between us and many other management companies are:

  • We charge a low, flat rate management fee of $397 per month, regardless of size and revenue
  • Our marketing is second to none, innovative and always on the cutting edge

You can read more about who we are and why our marketing is awesome on our Owner’s page.

What about our marketing that’s so awesome.

You’ve heard the success stories of property owners managing their condos themselves.  They list it on VRBO, give their property tons of TLC, follow up rigorously with their rental leads and they book their condo extremely well.

As you may (or may not) know, this is all a ton of work and it’s something for which we have an extremely good system and work that system full time.  The reason why our program is so successful is that we combine all the great things of managing a property individually with the scalability of a great system found in larger companies. The result is more bookings, higher revenue, better care for your property and less costs.

Each of our properties are marketed individually.  This is done several ways and ensures that the condo that you’ve worked so hard to make awesome is rewarded for that hard work.

Each property on our vacation rental program gets: 

  • Their own page on our website
  • An HD video tour
  • High resolution photos
  • An exclusive email database (created from inquiries)
  • VRBO listing (paid for by owner)
  • Album on our Facebook page

This individual attention creates a ton of work when bringing on new properties but translates to higher bookings and, of course, higher revenue than you’ve seen before.  In most cases, we command a higher price than the competition because we pack so much value into a guest’s stay!

Plus we own PCBDaily and use it to leverage all sorts of opportunities for our guests.

Why We’re looking to expand in Aqua, Splash and Majestic.

We work hard to look for properties in great destinations.  Each of these three resorts have characteristics that lend perfectly to performing well for vacation rentals.

When it comes to sophisticated luxury, Aqua is second to none in Panama City Beach.  When you walk in, you’re greeted with a refined style that just isn’t found anywhere else.  The surfaces, colors, accents and modern amenities make this resort an attractive, complete package.

Splash Resort is extremely well-known for being family-friendly and a blast for kids of all ages. The large-resort feel, tons of water play areas and quiet location in Panama City Beach make it perfect for families to vacation and property owners to enjoy fantastic rental performance.

Majestic Beach Resort is just huge.  The amenity list seems to go on forever, and guests that stay at Majestic talk about it for weeks when they get home.  Majestic is one of those resorts guests ask for year after year and condos in this resort perform well for owners, their management companies and the companies that service them.

Why we are a great fit for you.

The flat-rate fee does a couple of wonderful things for us and our owner-clients.

  1. It saves our owner clients money almost 100% of the time
  2. It gives us a projectable business model that works year round (you know we aren’t going anywhere)

And don’t worry about it not giving us the motivation to book your condo.  If we don’t book you’re condo, you’re not going to be happy, then you’ll leave us.  Unhappy owner-clients make an unhappy Jason. 😦

Our goal is to book 100% during peak season times.  And so far, we’ve almost always achieved that.  Now that’s cause for a smiley face. 🙂

How to find out more information.

So we’ve piqued your interest.  Great.  For more information, hop on over to our rentals website, or give us a shout at 850-238-6250.

Bonfires on Panama City Beach Friday Night

In celebration of the Valentines holiday, the City of Panama City Beach has allowed special permits to be pulled for property and resort owners to build a bonfire on their little stretch of beach.

The bonfires will be Friday evening and will set the mood for a romantic experience with your friends and loved ones.

7 properties have pulled the permits so far, including Beach Towers Resort, Shores of Panama, Sugar Sands, Grand Panama, Tidewater, Sterling Breeze, and the Chateau motel.

Here are some tips if you are a property that is wanting to host a bonfire:

  • A permit is required, you must get this through the City of Panama City Beach.
  • Make sure that the weather is right for a fire. Even if the area is not particularly dry, high winds may drive the fire out of your control
  • Bring necessary supplies and equipment for the fire. (Starter logs, NO LIGHTER FLUID, ample fire wood, pokers, lighter / matches, emergency supplies, fire extinguisher etc.)
  • Make sure that you have a suitable fire pit created.
  • Bring a bucket to put out fire. Fire should be completely extinguished with water. Do NOT bury hot coals; buried coals are a safety hazard.
  • Fire shall be attended at all times by a responsible adult staff member
  • Clean Up the area entirely upon completion and be sure to extinguish completely all flames, coals and debris with water.

Can we start buying again yet?

“The answer is a qualified yes,” stated a November issue of Fortune Magazine in an Investing column titled Time to Jump In?

The author then goes on to explain that now is a great time to get into, or get back in, the stock market.  “Stocks aren’t exactly cheap, but for the first time in years investors can expect annual gains that should eventually approach double digits.”

Well, cheap is always a relative term.  Stocks ARE cheap right now compared to where they were 12 months ago.  With the 12 month high at just under 14,000, the DOW has dropped 41% since this time last year.  I just bought a new pair of Sperry’s this weekend at a 40% off sale.  I saved 35 bucks!  That’s dinner and a matinee.

This is not to say that in the next 6 to 12 to 18 months that those purchasing stocks now will not lose money, because there is actually a good likelyhood that they will.  However, the longer the term, the smaller the risk.  The advantage to buying now is the tremendous long term gain potential.  The disadvantage to NOT buying now is the risk of missing the bottom and losing an opportunity at potential long term gain.  We may be in a recession, but historically, the market comes flying out of downturns.  A study performed  this year by Ned Davis Research found after studying 10 recessions after WWII, the average market return one year after the market low point was around 32%.

If the last 10 years have been on average bad, does that mean that the next 10 years will be bad also?  Most likely no.  In fact, odds are overwhelmingly good they will yield much better than average returns.

The interesting observation to be made right now is that the quite opportune time to purchase stocks now is actually parallel with the real estate market.  Now is the time to be buying real estate.  Like stocks, real estate is likely to continue to fall, but the bottom is near.  Real estate, historically, has always been a good long term hold.  Ownership is not without heartburn, but if you can’t stomach seeing your property values come down a little over the course of 10 years, maybe investing in real estate isn’t for you.

In many cases, prices have come down to 2003 levels.  The average sold price on Panama City Beach during the third quarter 2008 was 10% less than what it was during the same period in 2006.  On an individual basis, some prices have come down as much as 20 to 40%.  Right now there are deals everywhere with motivated sellers willing to do just about anything to sell their property.  In many cases, velocity sales has actually increased from last year, indicating the entrance of buyers into the market.

The best way to acheive healty returns in any investment is buying low.  You know the saying – you make money when you buy, not when you sell.  Now is the time to be making money.

We Say Merry Christmas, Tree Lighting

The Christmas Spirit filled the air with smells of pine and cookies arousing our senses.  Hundreds of people came to watch as their children and their neighbor’s children sang carols on platform risers with smiles on their faces and sugar rushing through their veins.

Churches and schools from all over Panama City Beach served sweets of all kinds on decorated tables.  The choice of beverage was consitently a clear soda mixed with a sherbert and fruit concentrate.  A few had cake, but most had cookies.

Young boys and girls walked around with overflowing plates of treats, surely spoiling their dinner, but nobody cared, it’s Christmas.  I had my fair share of sweets, and definately spoiled my dinner.

This time of year always seems to bring such joy.  Smiles were everywhere and so were friends.

Santa arrived in his lighted chariot with a huge motorized ladder attached to the top, ideal for boarding his sleigh should Rudolf be reluctant to drop below an altitude of 100 feet.  As he walked in, kids of all ages gleamed with dreams of presents under the tree.

The tree was lit with much fanfair and excitement.  As the lights came to life, the eyes of lookers-on sparkeled.  Christmas is officially here, the tree at Frank Brown Park had been lit.

Merry Christmas everyone.

How to become a re-invited guest

Having been on both sides of the vacation rental door, I’ve discovered what it takes to be a re-invited as a guest. As an owner, I already know what I expect from my guests, and how to be diplomatic about those expectations. But how do I convey this to my potential guests without sounding like an overprotective harpy? Well, like I said, I’ve been a renter as well, and the number one attitude I’ve come away with is – treat it like it was mine, better yet, treat it like I had guests coming too.

Wherever we’ve stayed, we’ve always been good about leaving our hotel room or vacation rental, in good shape. But we’ve also felt like if we damaged anything, that we’d be honest enough to inform the owner. We observed the rules during our stay, and went beyond the general checkout cleaning procedures. Maybe I’m insecure enough to not want others to think badly of me. So we’d clean, pick up, fold, wipe down the shower, you name it. But that’s just us. Here I’ll discuss a few ideas of what it takes to make your rental landlords want you back.

As owners, we’ve been quite fortunate to have only a few instances of wear and tear…ones that are hard to avoid from regular use. We’ve had spoons sacrificed to the disposal (I’ve done that myself, DOH!). A few suitcase scuffs on the hallway walls (I highly recommend those miracle sponges!), and red mystery drink spills, presumably from someone’s toddler. These little hiccups are halfway expected and life happens. One time, we got a call from a frantic guest that as they sat and watched television, a picture hanging between the patio doors just slid down the wall and crashed to the floor, breaking the frame. She didn’t want us to think they were negligent in any way. Well, truthfully, I’m surprised it hadn’t happened before. It was not a logical placement and was probably knocked off the hook by the opening and closing of the vertical blinds. We replaced the picture with a small tin wall hanging…one that even if it did fall, wouldn’t break. So no harm, no foul.

Here are some important pointers guests should consider when renting a vacation home.

  1. You are not in a hotel. This is someone’s home, whether it is a condo, townhouse or full-sized home. The owners have a mortgage, insurance, association fees, housekeeping staff and more. Replacing or repairing items can be costly, time-consuming and can interrupt their flow of guests. They may not have alternate rooms, condos or homes to let should a major repair come into play. All renters should be respectful of that.
  2. If you damage something, please let your owners know about it. Don’t make them guess who the culprit was. If it’s minor, they’ll just be happy you were honest enough to tell them. It may be an item they planned to replace at some point anyway. If it is a costly accident, even more reason to call the owners. You will probably have to pay – this will come off your deposit, or may go beyond your deposit. But they will appreciate your honesty, will be fair with you and even though your accident was claimed, because you were upfront about it, will still be invited back. It depends on the incident.
  3. If you are a student and you are allowed to rent during spring break, expect a higher deposit and stricter guidelines from the owner. Be respectful of all rules and put yourself in the owners’ shoes. If you feel compelled to “let loose” while on your vacation, don’t do it in your rental! Just because you’re out of your parents’ care and away from the dorm, doesn’t give you permission to destroy other people’s property. A crime is a crime, and willful destruction of property has no excuse.
  4. Pay your fees and deposits as requested. Don’t aggravate the owners by being delinquent in paying your balances. You may even end up losing your deposit and your booking. Whatever date your rent is due, pay it by then or before. If you feel you may possibly not have it by the due date, don’t reserve until you know for sure. Rental owners need to keep their availability calendars up-to-date so that their prospects can know what dates are open. So try to be sensitive to that. If your balance is due 30 days before your arrival, pay it by then or before. It is up to the owner to be flexible, or not. And it depends on how well, if at all, they may know you. Don’t assume they will bend just for you.
  5. During your stay, keep your doors locked when you are not there, and at night while you sleep. Whether your resort or rental has security or not, it’s not up to the owner to guarantee that nothing will happen to your personal property. But you are obliged to protect theirs.
  6. Follow the checkout guidelines given to you. Go beyond it if you can. Remove food and trash from the premises. Flush the toilets, at least rinse down the sinks and showers. Sweep the floors of excess sand or dirt. If the owner expects stripped beds, do it. If you launder the bedding and remake the bed, leave a note that you did so. And please remove lint from the dryer’s lint trap. But remember, the housekeeping staff and the owners probably have a system of their own anyway. Check all drawers and closets for your personal items. Remove media from players and return them to their proper place. Wash any dishes, or at least run the dishwasher, or put things away. Did you microwave popcorn? Won’t take a minute to wipe down that butter splatter!
  7. Okay, here is a sensitive subject. But I owe it to you, and owners, to discuss this. Children. If you bring diapered babies, please ensure that “overflows” do not occur on mattresses or furniture. Now hopefully, the owners have thought to use moisture shielded anti-microbial covers on mattresses and pillows, but why tempt fate? If they supply a crib or playpen, use them! Imagine you are an owner and your housekeeper calls you four hours before the next guests are due to arrive. “I was changing the bedding and smelled urine. There’s a big wet stain on your mattress. What do I do?!” Well, I can tell you, your little family probably won’t be invited back, at least until your little angel is potty trained! Sorry, it has to be said.
    • Continuation of “children”: Brought your PS3? Cool. But that big ole 52” LCD doesn’t like to have a gamed paused on it for three hours while you all go to dinner. Have the kids turn it off when they aren’t playing. In fact, don’t leave the TV on when you’re not watching it. More and more owners are furnishing their rentals with higher-end electronics for their guests. Those things don’t come cheap, and neither do the extended warranties and insurance.
    • Furniture: Do you let the kids walk on the furniture or run through your house? Fine, let them at your home. But you’re not home. This is someone else’s home as well as a business. It’s a business that comes with a busy season and quick turnaround for the housekeeping staff. You may be paying a cleaning fee, but don’t push it. You didn’t pay for the extra hour it takes to remove chocolate handprints from the sofa. You’ll likely be charged extra, I’m just warning you.

If you liked your accommodations, and you wish to return again, it’s for a reason. Do the owners a favor and refer the home to your friends and family. Let the owners know it too. As you develop that relationship as repeat customers, you may find yourself recipients of specials, extra amenities and a whole lot of self-respect. You know, the whole “golden rule” thing.

Well, I hope I given you just a glimpse of what you can do to be great guests. It’s not an exhaustive list, but one that will put you on the road to having a good reputation as a responsible guest. Yes, vacation homeowners need your business. But vacationers also want good rates, smooth transactions and great memories. Respecting the vacation homes you stay in will make this possible – and you’ll find that owners will be inviting you back year after year.

PCB – The Emerald Coast's glorious jewel

It’s no wonder Panama City Beach claims to have the “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”. This Gulf Coast jewel stands out among the Emerald shores of Florida’s Panhandle. Locals can tell you that they live in one of the best places in the Sunshine State. First established in 1953 with Phillips Inlet Bridge on the quiet west end, Panama City Beach grew from a sleepy little secret to the vacation hotspot it is today.
As one looks into the history of Panama City Beach, one thing stands clear. The water that kisses the glistening white sand is clean, with several hues of green and blue, and boy is it warm. On a perfect summer day, water temps average a comfy 80 to 84 degrees. A day on one of these beaches is just the ticket for your hurried life.

The beauty of the powdery sand is that it won’t burn your feet. This sand gets its white color from the Appalachian Mountains. Quartz crystals washed down to the coast centuries ago. It’s no wonder this destination has been tagged as “the Beach Lover’s Beach”. This resilient little town shows much promise for the future. Major venues are currently acquiring land for future parks and recreation.

No matter what you’ve heard, Panama City Beach is not just for the college crowd anymore. City planners have given much thought and energy into broadening the beach’s appeal to all age groups for vacation. Although the Spring Break crowd still descends to area, stricter laws and party control have helped to control this month-long revelry. Partiers have also found other areas of Florida to blow off steam. PCB is working hard, and succeeding, in attracting families and all vacationers to this piece of heaven. Many new and exciting venues have come to Panama City Beach, including an amazing outdoor mall called Pier Park. It’s almost a city in itself. This is a guarantee that our area continues to offer more vacation bang for your buck, for years to come.

With over 390 places to curb your appetite, the Panama City Beach area is teaming with endless ways to cure your hunger. Franchise fair is always available, as well as fast food choices. But don’t count out the numerous “mom and pop” establishments that line the three main streets of the city. On Front Beach Road you’ll find several steak and seafood restaurants, along with beachfront dining where you can eat and enjoy the sun setting over the Gulf. There are also sunset dining cruises, which offer entertainment along with great food. The seafood is freshly caught the very day you order. Do plan on many beach walks to burn off the calories you’ll consume while you are here.

For the adventurous thrill seeker, you’ll find the go-cart tracks a fun way to spend the evening. Not in the racing mood? Try your hand at mini golf or the multitude of thrill rides. Slingshots and sky-high bungee rides will make even grown men scream. Even if you don’t ride, they are loads of fun to watch. Carnival type game parks are a way to provide the kids with hours of fun. Shipwreck Island Water Park is a refreshing way to spend your day, without the saltwater. There is also a plethora of moped and electric car rentals for those wanting to leave the car at the resort. Zip around to your heart’s content, but please wear your helmet!

If 365 days of water play, golf and sun worshiping isn’t enough for you, many other attractions await you. The city boasts the brand new Panama City Beach Aquatic Center, ZooWorld, mini golf courses as well as several full golf venues, amazing restaurants, and the new Pier Park for Shopping/Dining/Entertainment. You’ll also not want to miss the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum or Gulf World – where you can play with the dolphins, and so much more.

Speaking of dolphins in all the time I’ve spent in Panama City Beach, there was never a day that went by that I did not see pods of dolphins busy at play. Sometimes just yards away, these delightful mammals also love the warm waters of the Emerald Coast. A day visit to nearby Shell Island, just a ferry ride over from St. Andrews park on the east end, is not to be missed. Bring your lunch, because the inhabitants of this pristine island oasis won’t cook for you. This island is undeveloped and is host to the world’s largest population of bottle-nosed dolphins.

Shelling is an addictive hobby among all visitors and locals alike. When you go, try several spots up and down the beach. Shelling after a storm often yields a treasure chest of finds. Just be sure to take only unoccupied shells and leave some for other collectors and future tenants!

There are plenty of vacation rental accommodations to choose from in Panama City Beach. Whether you desire to rent a private condo unit (each one is decorated differently by their owners), beach house, villa, or hotel, there are plenty of places available from east to west on the beach. The far east side will bring you closer to St. Andrews Park and Aquatic Preserve and Shell Island, from there head west to where the action is, to about the middle area. Don’t worry about things to do; the whole beach has something for everyone. As condominium construction projects complete, this #1 choice of PCB vacationers offer plenty of places to kick off your flip flops, relax and unwind.

As you head west, the beaches become more private and relaxing. The beach on the far west end offers up beautiful Camp Helen, Inlet Beach, Carillon and Lake Powell. For the “Quiet West End” boasts vacationing on near private beaches. It’s like having the beach nearly all to yourself. Great for families, honeymooners and snowbirds, this area is a true GETAWAY! It’s the part of Panama City Beach that makes you say, “Ahhh!” Yet, when you’re ready to go out for a night on the town, jump in your car and a short drive takes you for amazing dining and fun. Some claim PCB to be the next Miami, but one thing stands clear – no matter how swanky we become, we have the old style of beach life in our veins. Take it slow, relax, you’re on beach time now!

For superb beach-loving fun, Panama City Beach has my vote for the #1 Florida vacation mecca in the US. The moderate climate also attracts many northerners to its sun-soaked winters. With an average temperature of 66 degrees in December, and sometimes warmer, it’s no wonder our beach finds more and more snowbirds settling in for good! There are so many new and exciting things that lie in store in Bay County. As a condo owner, I for one, am anxious to make it my permanent home someday.

How to rent your vacation home…without losing your mind

As vacation rental property owners, we have gradually learned the importance of mixing exceptional hospitality with a good measure of common sense. It is generally the goal of any vacation rental owner to provide their guests with comfort, affordability and a place of respite. Isn’t that what we all need from time to time? My aim in this article is to provide new or struggling property owners with suggestions on what floats the boats of potential guests.

When my husband and I first entered into this business, we were what you’d call rental property virgins. Oh yeah, we’d rented vacation homes or condos from the Bahamas to Maui, but we had nothing to prepare us for this new journey. Our curriculum was hours of Internet research and “Googling”.

Our quest began with a visit to Panama City Beach, where we stayed at some relatives’ home, about three blocks from the beach. For months before our trip to Florida, I began to contact several real estate agents. Not an easy task when you’re doing it from your home in the Midwest. But we muddled through. This California native was beach-starved and I wasn’t going to let 800+ miles stand in my way of the beach dream. Then we narrowed our real estate agent list down to one we enjoyed working with. We also printed out listings and photos, and trimmed down our shopping list of homes.

Location, location, location! Although we desired an actual single family dwelling on the beach, our budget limited our search to beachfront condos. So letting our agents know our price range, this helped narrow our search considerably. To make a long story short, hours of condo shopping resulted in finding our dream condo. We now owned a ground floor, beachfront condo on the quiet west end of Panama City Beach. I prefer a view closer to the ground as I’m agoraphobic (fear of heights) and I hate using an elevator. I have no aversion to using stairs, but I already use them at home. So I figured why not provide my older guests and those with young children with nosebleed-free accommodations. Nothing beats stepping right onto the sand from your patio. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. We returned a month later to close on our property, refurnished, and enjoy our first week as condo owners. That was the easy part!

We always knew we’d eventually run the business without the help of an agency, but we needed some guidance to get our feet wet (no pun intended). For the first couple of months, we used a rental agency while we figured out what we were doing. We knew we’d need to secure reliable housekeepers, obtain vacation rental web sites to list our property, and work our property into a successful business. Well, at least try to get it to pay its own bills. When we were ready, we learned that it was actually easier, for us. I won’t claim it’s easier for everyone. But since we only own one condo, it was a no-brainer.

I cannot stress enough how important record keeping is in this business. You must record every transaction relating to your business. Every loss, gain and receipt must be meticulously recorded…right down to the housekeeper fees, bed tax collected, and heaven forbid, stolen towels! By the way, we’ve only had spices removed! So find yourself a good spreadsheet template. Also, keep good records of your correspondence and emails with your guests, inquiries, housekeeping and maintenance staff. You are more likely to enjoy repeat guests if clear and friendly conversations exist between you.

I have made it a habit to contact my inquirers immediately (within that day). They are usually impressed that I took the time to get back to them. Some never get back to me even after I take the time to call or email them. But I figure, hey, it’s their loss! By the way, every email I receive from potential guests, whether they rent or not, get filed. I try to reconnect with them for the following season, or when I run specials. Never underestimate what an invitation to bookmark your listing site for future rentals can do for your business. Repeat guests can eventually become your bread and butter. This year we’ve enjoyed about 90 percent occupancy. There are other factors to contribute to this phenomenon.

Provide your guests with all the creature comforts. Upgrade your cable programming to HD and furnish the nicest high def television you can afford. Prices have really dropped as resolution and contrast ratio have risen. For the living room, a 40” to 52” LCD does nicely. However, be sure to put locks on pay-per-view. Also, it would behoove you to have a smaller HD LCD in the bedroom, instead of a bulky tube TV. The LCDs run cooler and do not attract as much dust. Also, provide DVD players in the living room as well as the master bedroom. If you have extra DVDs lying around, stock a few for your guests. Provide movies for younger guests. Mark them clearly and keep an inventory.

For the basic price of combining local phone service with DSL, the rewards are obvious. I’ve rarely had guests that didn’t need it or use it. Many ask for it and prospects just may choose your rental over another that doesn’t provide Internet service.

I cannot stress enough how important a good housekeeper is. Find one that has a spotless reputation, great references, flexible, has great attention to detail. Your housekeeper deserves to have good communication with you, for schedules, expectations, prompt payment and a good working relationship. She/he can make or break your business. Keep them happy and everyone wins.

Keep your rental like you would your home. Not only will it feel more like home for your guests, they will tend to respect it more. Provide plenty of linens and first-day amenities such as little soaps, TP, tea, spices, etc., will remind them they are not in a mere hotel. Little touches like bedtime mints, champagne for newlyweds, even a couple of loads of dishwasher soap will make them yearn to return.

A comfortable bed that they don’t want to get out of is sure to bring your guests back. Don’t scrimp on comfort here. A sturdy mattress will last years longer than one from a discount store. Do provide moisture-proof anti-microbial pillow and mattress covers. Let your guests know this, as it will ensure them that you have their health and comfort at the top of your list.

Keep your appliances updated and good working order. If you buy new, get extended warranties. I guarantee it will be worth it, and it’s tax deductible. Provide your guests with tips and information on how to use them. High efficiency front loading washers use only HE (low sudsing) detergent. Remind them to keep the lint traps clean on your dryer. Provide coffee filters! They are cheap, and even if you don’t provide coffee (which can go stale anyway), your guests will appreciate not having to buy filters.

It’s nice to keep a broom and dustpans, bagless vacuum and some cleaning supplies available for your guests to use. Some may never use them; after all, they are on vacation! But then you may have guests like myself, A-types that can stand to see dust or sand on the floor. My housekeepers are always delighted to walk into a recently vacated unit that was sparkling clean. It can happen!

When the deal is closed and your guests have only weeks until they arrive, be sure to send them receipts for payment, email to print out of what you expect of them, how to check in and out, how to get keys, times, phone numbers and anything else that will make their arrival and departure as smooth as silk. Encourage your guests to sign a guestbook. Others will enjoy reading pages of kudos and you can write their entries into the much-forgotten online guestbook!

Every January, I create a letter to email all my contacts, whether they actually stayed or just inquired. Then I write them and invite them to check our web sites to start planning their next vacation. I remind them to book early, especially for peak times like March through the end of September. Guests that you expect to return will appreciate the reminder. If you prefer not to rent to college age guests, and we strictly avoid this, do be cordial and diplomatic when emailing them back. Firmly remind them of your policy but don’t burn the bridge. Let them know to share your link with their parents, should they be shopping around for great accommodations. A little diplomacy may lead to a booking you didn’t expect.

Lastly, I’d encourage rental owners to remember what it is like to be on the other side of the door. Treat your guests as you would like to be treated. Do for them what you can afford, try to break even, and try to enjoy your vacation home yourself when you can. We’ve developed some great relationships with our renters. The dividends will be great new friendships and happy memories for all. Have fun with it and many happy returns!

TDC Narrows Pool Down to Three Website Companies

Friday, during a special workshop the TDC’s Interactive Committee, Marty McDaniel and Buddy Wilkes, whittled the 6 companies that submitted Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) down to their top three.

The six companies that submitted RFQ’s are as follows:

  • Simple View Inc.
  • Jennifer Barbee Inc.
  • Miles Media
  • Cyber Sytes
  • The 543 Group
  • Ypartnership

Susan Estler, VP of Marketing for the CVB recommended Simple View, Jennifer Barbee, and Miles Media as the top three that had the capability and capacity to handle the interactive needs of Panama City Beach.

According to Ms. Estler, Simple View had excellent references.  All of their existing clients were extremely satisfied with their performance, and to date, Simple View has yet to lose a client.  Their client list spans from Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Scottsdale, Park City, and tons more.  One of the more important issues discussed was the database that will be amassed with this new interactive initiative, and Simple View assured us that the database that is created using our initiatives will, indeed, be ours (well, the CVB’s).  This is a huge issue with our current agency, Miles Media, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

Second on Ms. Estler’s recommendation list was Jennifer Barbee, Inc.  Jennifer Barbee is a newly formed interactive marketing agency that comes from very well developed roots.  Jennifer’s position was secured in this list because of her background with USDM, who is considered somewhat the industry standard in interactive marketing.  The database issue is not existent as the data amassed will belong to the CVB.  As an added bonus, Barbee uses the same database system as the CVB, further easing the movement of data from the agency to the CVB. Her experience and work portfolio is in line with what the CVB is looking for, in fact, so much so, that the only reason she is in second is because of her company being in its infancy.

The third on the list was Miles Media.  Miles Media is the current interactive agency holding the reigns of the CVB web site, VisitPanamaCityBeach.com, and there are several issues with this relationship, with the major issue being who controls the database.  Marty McDaniel and Buddy Wilkes both agreed that in the past, Miles Media has been very uncooperative in sharing the database that the Panama City Beach CVB marketing efforts has generated.  That is to say, they will not let us have the database that, essentially, we paid for through our marketing efforts that they deployed.  Miles Media’s excuse is that all of the user data that all of their campaigns generates is shared with the Visit Florida database and that once it enters that database, it belongs to that “domain”, and can’t be given out to individual clients.  I would agree, that the Panama City Beach CVB should not be given access to a database that includes data from campaigns or efforts that are other than their own, however (and this is a big however), there is no reason why Miles Media can’t distinguish the difference between “our” data and the data of someone else’s marketing efforts.  Further more, if they are submitting the data to some “master” database, then there is no reason that they can’t duplicate “our” data so as to keep it segregated.  If they can’t, I would submit that that is their problem, not ours, and they just need to figure it out.  As the contact database administrator of over 750,000 contacts, I can assure you that if I told the principles of my company that I can’t distinguish the difference between different databases within the database, I would have been fired a long time ago.

There are nifty things called computers and programs that allow people to do cool things like organize data however you want, need, or desire to based on whatever you want.

As indicated by the committee members, the database issue in the past with Miles Media has been unsolvable.  The committee felt that moving forward, Miles Media would continue to be unwilling to change their approach on this issue.  The committee members decided that it would be prudent to ask the question up front whether Miles Media would be willing to share with the Panama City Beach CVB the database their marketing efforts generate, and if the answer was still no, they would be moved to position 4, and have virtually no chance on continuing to be the interactive agency of record.  At this point, Cyber Sytes would replace Miles Media in position and move to position three.

You don’t have to be told that it was decided that Cyber Sytes would be in position four.  It was agreed upon by all present that Cyber Sytes has a very talented team and in the last two years, they have made very positive movement by way of bringing on talented graphics arts staff and have grown professionally and artistically.  They have become virtually THE web design firm in Bay County, and have been recognized for this.  However, the committee agreed, they just didn’t think Cyber Sytes was “ready” for the CVB.

The process moving forward will include a special meeting to be called sometime in between next Wednesday’s meeting (agenda forthcoming) and the next scheduled meeting to hear presentations from the top two agency picks, Simple View, Inc., and Jennifer Barbee, Inc.

I will, of course, be covering these meetings, so stay tuned.

Steel Dirt – New Publix Taking Shape

Growing from a field of dirt, a steel and concrete structure is forming the shape of the future of Publix on Back Beach Road.  With the hot summer months over, the crews are thankful to have the bulk of their work during what is arguably one of the best times of year in Panama City Beach.

With the thriving commercial development on Back Beach Road, especially around the area of Beckrich and Alf Coleman, it would seem the area is preparing itself for an influx of new visitors by way of condo rentals, vacation rentals, or new home purchasers in Panama City Beach.  St. Joe is certainly ambitious in their prospective development at the end of Beckrich.  The Breakfast Point subdivision promised to bring thousands of new homes to our area when there are people here to fill them.

The new 5400 square foot Publix will be replacing the old 4500 square foot grocery located at the corner of Beckrich and Middle Beach Road.  The look will be similar to the new Publix on Thomas Drive and the Publix right next to Sandestin.

In addition to the new Publix, a much needed Office Depot will be opening a store in this new shopping complex.

Construction time is around 9 months and the new store should be open by summer 2009.