What may distinguish Panama City Beach from larger, more prominent, vacation destinations isn’t what you may think. It isn’t the clientele, because let’s face it; the same people who visit Orlando and New Orleans visit Panama City Beach. It’s not necessarily our ignominious moniker as the “Redneck Riviera,” because even a place like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where such a label may seem a tad more appropriate, has avoided such branding. In fact, what may be keeping Panama City Beach from realizing its full potential as a vacation destination to rival any, is a very simple thing we’ve all taken for granted; standardized hospitality training. The very truth in the statement is evidenced by how many people, as they read this, scoff at the idea.
While you think Panama City Beach is doing just fine in its ability to be a hospitable, obliging place for all vacationers your own “Southern Manners” may be what’s blinding you from the truth. The reality is, as city Panama City Beach is not professionally hospitable. As far as true, professionally operated hospitality goes, Panama City Beach could be schooled by places like Orlando and Gatlinburg. Don’t believe me? Below are five scenarios that, although fictionally composed, can be witnessed happening all over the beach. After reading them, ask yourself do we need the training.
During peak season, several families wait outside a restaurant where the wait has reached over an hour. It is the height of summer and the heat index is in the triple digits. There are no available seats in the restaurants interior and all unseated patrons must wait outside where chairs are extremely limited and the heat is rising off the pavement in waves. During their wait no hostesses come out to check on them, from the restaurant manager they receive no updates on wait time and no complimentary refreshments are provided in the extreme heat. When one of the fathers, whose two-year old daughter is drenched with sweat in the blistering heat, approaches the teenage, untrained hostess regarding remaining wait time the hostess sighs with annoyance and says, “Sir, the wait time is 45 minutes and you’ve only waited 30. We can’t seat you until seats are available. We’ll buzz you when its time.”
During the midnight shift, two young girls, one twelve and the other sixteen, rush the front desk counter of their hotel obviously frightened and out of breath. The older of them, panting and shaking, says to the desk clerk, “We saw a huge bug in our room.”
The other girl chimed in, “It was giant; bigger than my thumb and black!”
“And it could fly!”
The desk clerk, an older woman, chuckled softly and replied,”It’s just a palmetto bug. They’re everywhere this time of year. Where are your parents?”
The older girl answered, “They went to dinner and we ordered pizza. The bug landed in our food.”
“Well,” the clerk said. “Those bugs ain’t gonna do you no harm. They just looking for a place to get out of the weather.” She reached behind the desk and grabbed a can of bug spray. “We don’t have maintenance on staff right now so take this with you. If you see him again, give him a shot of this and I promise you won’t see him again.”
A family, excited to be in Panama City Beach for their annual vacation, have problems with the car rental at the airport and decide to hail a taxi. The taxi stops. When the man opens the door for his wife, the cab billows with cigarette smoke. Inside, the cab still smells like Spring Break puke. The man says to his wife and two children, “Don’t worry. We’ll get to the hotel and the fun starts.”
After driving silently for a few miles, they cross Hathaway Bridge and see the beautiful water for the first time. The kids are blown away by the colors of the gulf and the ships coasting the calm water. The man says to the cabbie, “We’ve never been to Panama City Beach. This place is beautiful. Tell me a little about it.”
The driver answers, “It’s busy and crowded. But from what I hear there’s a lot to do.”
“Like what?” The man asks. “Where’s a good place to take the kids for dinner?”
“Umm, there are lots of places. You’ll see all that once you get to your hotel.”
“But c’mon, as a local, you’ve got to know a few good spots. Any places you’d suggest?”
“Nope. Ask the front desk clerk at your hotel.”
Law Enforcement Scenario:
A big name celebrity is brought to Panama City Beach for a one night only concert. Since there is no venue to house such an event, the concert is held on the beach. Law Enforcement has a plan in place to accommodate up to 10,000 – 12,000 occupants on the beach and roadside parking. None of the local businesses are knowledgeable about this plan because, but based on the projected number, law enforcement should be able to handle the influx.
The concert sees nearly 30,000 people, far above the anticipated number. Roadsides are crammed with cars causing major traffic jams and potentially dangerous situations. Bathrooms, water fountains and other necessary items for a concert of such a magnitude were not readily available. When the concert ends, the 30,000 people at once hit the streets and overwhelm the businesses and law enforcement. Open canisters, kids hanging out windows, speeding cars and other illegal circumstances cannot be properly policed. Local business parking lots are littered with people and trash and the traffic is backed up for hours. Police have to close roads in order to manipulate the traffic.
A local couple is trying to get home in all the madness. Their home is on one of the closed streets. When the couple asks the police officer if they can cut through to get to their home and out of the crazy scene, the officer ignores them and they have to sit through a 2 hour traffic loop just to get home.
A man in a bar accidentally bumps into a woman, causing her to spill her drink onto her dress. The woman, slightly inebriated, screams at the man who tries desperately to apologize. After only a few moments, the woman’s boyfriend walks up, his eyes dancing around with drunkenness.
The boyfriend shoves the other man into a crowd of people causing a ruckus at the bar. The bartender calls for the bouncers, who show up and grab both men. The boyfriend tries to fight off the bouncer causing the bouncers to become more aggressive. The man, who is still attempting to be apologetic and explain to the bouncer his mistake, is put in a chokehold and dragged out of the bar; his night on Panama City Beach ruined.
These are but scenarios that represent real life scenes on Panama City Beach. The lack of hospitality training not only hinders businesses and their employees from handling these situations properly, but often encourages the situations by the utter unprofessionalism. By simply adding accessible Standardized training (which should be relatively easy with the new bay county chapter of the FRLA) Panama City Beach could change everything about its moniker and its clientele by setting the example.
You may be raised how to be polite contributing members of society, but no one is raised to be hospitable and professional: for that you need training.Print Story