7 Ways for PCB to Get Ready for the New Airport

by June 15, 2009 • 15 comments


Brand New Name:
This is a big one.  What’s in a name?  Everything.  A name identifies what something is and can convey the magnitude of its existence.  Panama City-Bay County International Airport just isn’t going to cut it for a 10,000 foot 4,000 acre international airport capable of receiving the largest of passenger jets from anywhere in the world.  We need a name that conveys a much larger representation.  Suggestions here on Pcbdaily have included Sunshine State International Airport, Emerald Coast International Airport, Florida International Airport, Gulf of Mexico International Airport, and Southern U.S. Intercontinental Airport.  Several readers in a previous post emphasized their favor towards Emerald Coast International Airport.  This name will literally be in front of millions, and the first impression that is imminent needs to be great.

Better Sense of Arrival on Highway 79:
What is the first thing fliers will see when they are driving down to our beautiful snow-white sand beaches?  A newly widened road with power lines and no landscaping; snore.  We need to excite them with a fantastic sense of arrival, a road adorned with huge, gorgeous palm trees, lush green grass, sidewalks, curbs, street lights, and underground utilities.  Put simply, it needs to look just like Beckrich , ‘er’uh’ R. Jackson Blvd.  This is another one of those “first-impression” things that we can’t afford to screw up.  I know that “officials” will say that there is a reason that we are doing the CRA in the order that it’s being done, but we need to find a way to change it up.  Highway 79 needs to be top priority, then next Front Beach Road needs to be addressed.

Improve Front Beach Road First:
It was remarked in another post’s comments that more emphasis needs to be placed on Front Beach Road’s improvements than on the improvements of the north/south corridors.  This is so true, tourists spend most of their time driving on Back Beach Road and Front Beach Road and very little time on the roads taking them in between.  Why did we spend money improving Churchwell, then Beckrich first?  Now we’re moving onto south and north Thomas Drive?  I know these areas needed improvements, badly, but we need to focus on what is more responsible regarding servicing our number one customers, tourists.  They don’t care what Beckrich looks like, they don’t EVER drive on Churchwell , but they see (and remark to me all the time, frankly) the ugly power lines and crave sidewalks to accent their stay with a little recreation.  This needs to be addressed NOW.

We’ve Got to Reintroduce Ourselves to the World:
Known as the redneck riviera and the spring break capital of the world (I don’t even want to dignify those titles with capital letters) we’ve got to totally re-introduce ourselves to the world.  Comments that came out of recent focus group sessions that took place in Atlanta discussing Panama City Beach were very revealing.  100% of the people in attendance had traveled to Panama City Beach, yet we were given the least favorable rating when compared to neighboring destinations.  Quoting a commenter, Bryan Durta, explaining remarks of some of the focus group attendees, “Negative comments included tacky, kinda like being at a bar with a bunch of drunks, dirty, rednecky, party city, too honky-tonky, and lots of cigarette butts on the beach.”  We need people to not only think of us as a classy destination that they’d want to come back to in a heart beat, but a classy destination that they’d recommend to their friends just as quick.  How do we do this?  We do this through innovative PR and Marketing efforts, much of which is much under way – bravo Jennifer Barbee Inc. and the CVB Marketing Team.

We Need a Year-round Destination
Every year businesses across the beach close down to save on expenses because the cost of operating exceeds the money they make during the winter season.  In Panama City Beach, we need to create more things for winter travelers to do so as to attract some of that shoulder-season money.  Right now, there are quite a few events that bolster weekend traffic during a time in which long weekends are king, but we need more.  And, they have to be good, real good.  We’re doing great, but we need to do better.  Events like the Panama City Beach Seafood Music and Wine Festival and Pier Park’s New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop have been immensely successful in the past, and will continue to bring people to our beaches year after year.  In addition, we need to better market to our winter-traveling retired friends.  We need to be sure that we have promotional materials created speaking directly to them and ensure they know we exist.

Transportation Sector:
In order for us to prepare for all the new people that will be traveling to our little slice of paradise, we need to centralize our transit system and educate our “transportation representatives”, aka cab-drivers.  We need a standardized licensing and education system to be sure that the first people that our tourists spend time with are not only knowledgeable, but that they are courteous as well.  In addition, in order to ensure a pleasurable experience, we need to be sure that the cab cars are of consistent quality and that the first impression of our new visitors is great enough to keep them coming back for years to come.

Standardized Hospitality Training
Here we go on the training thing again, but it is just so important.  Who is the first person you see when you check into your resort on vacation?  The person working the front desk.  So, if that person is grouchy, or doesn’t speak English or is just plain rude – how will that set the stage for your vacation?  I wouldn’t feel happy, and neither would many tourists.  The Resort Collection of Panama City Beach’s Edgewater Beach Resort teamed up with Gulf Coast Community College last fall to create a 20 hour training course that provides the hospitality and tourism businesses in our community with a consistent industry wide training program to increase customer service standards and the customer’s experience while visiting our destination.  This not only ensures that the people meeting our visitors are trained in how to interact with them, but that they are interacting in a quality that is consistent all down the beach.

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1 Jerry June 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm

HWY 79 and the entrance into PCB must be top priority. From where the sign says “PCB City Limits” coming south to the Beach is a disaster area. It is filthy and every measure should be taken to beautify that strip. It is an awful first impression. Also, each weekend (prime tourist travel time), multiple 18 wheelers park in the vacant lot next to the 79 waffle house. It is visual blight at it’s worst. If we want to be a “world-class” destination, these issues should be coordinated with the PCB government (probably CRA portion), TDC and the Chamber. It will be difficult to sell anyone on investment in the area if that is the first thing seen of PCB after flying in from hundreds or thousands of miles away.


2 Hunter Palmer June 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I agree that we need desperately to dress up 79 and Front Beach, as well as Thomas DR. We also need to bury all utilities and power lines as this makes us look extremely tacky and adds to hurricane vulnerability. As for renaming the airport, I don’t think anyone really pays any attention to that except us. Birmingham tried that and nobody cared. Think about it. Do European travelers know it’s Hartsfield? I think they just assume it’s the Atlanta Airport. Consider Montego Bay. It’s the Sangster International by the way but everyone calls it the Montego Bay airport. Lastly, changing opinions about PCB will take a long time. We are basically Gatlinburg at the beach and a lot of folks like it that way. Destin had its own set of charms back in the seventies until it was over run with rich folks and became known as more of an upscale destination. Not that we don’t want rich folks here, I’m just saying that will take time before local merchants see enough replacement revenue from the new airport arrivals to forgo the Spring Breakers, bikers and all around hell-raisers. Perceptions do not change over night and will not immediately change when we have a new airport regardless of what we call it. But we do need to start dressing the place up a bit. If it’s tacky to us just imagine what some visitors must think. Get rid of the airbrushed party stores and roadside vegetable carts and knock-off handbag dealers. Get rid of the tacky used car dealership at the corner of Joan and N.Lagoon and fix the lift stations so you don’t gag driving by. Have the county hire someone to pick up all the road kill all over the place. Tear down all the derelict structures and fences with their ragged advertisements for luxury condos never built flailing in the wind. And, finally, as for all the trash, have the PCB PD enforce our littering laws instead of hanging out and smoking in parking lots all day. It’s a start!


3 Jeff June 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I don’t often agree with Jason’s articles however this is one I can get onboard with. Also, the Hathaway Bridge and flyover areas are a mess … weeds growing through the cracks in the concrete medians and sidewalks! Once and a while a road crew comes by and cuts the weeds rather than using weed killer. This area needs to be landscaped as well as it is just one of many gateways to the beaches that can either leave a pleasant or bad taste in the minds of our visitors.


4 Ed Lortie June 15, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I like Emerald Coast International also.



5 Brian June 15, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Would love to see Front Beach undergo improvements.

A city that needs a new image, needs a new name. Let’s rename Panama City Beach, separate it from Panama City “over the bridge”.

How about Emerald City Beach or Sunshine Beach or [your suggestion here]


6 Michele June 16, 2009 at 7:39 am

Hunter, you are right on the mark. I say this time and time again, we need to change our image! I 39 yrs old, from Chicago, and my family and I have been coming to PCB for 20 years. I own a condo on the beach. But I have to say for the last few years, every time I come down I love PCB less and less. This is a sample of how some view PCB: I came down with 3 girlfriends for the Memorial day weekend. Their perception of PCB was: loved the white sand beach, music and atmosphere at Schooners, the Boatyard Restaurant and Pier Park.

They couldn’t believe the following tacky/white trash (their words) aspects: the college and high school kids beer funneling on the beach all day long (yes, all day and yes, some were in high school as we talked to their 47 yr. old chaperone who was sitting with them on the beach); all the tattoo/piercing stores(quote “they’re everywhere!”); the Condom Knowledge store; and, areas of the beach were dirty (trash). By the way, the College and High School kids were also squirting whipped cream and chocolate sauce on each others chests and licking it off each other. This took place in front of our condo, not some bar. Wonderful viewing experience. I was glad my 8 and 10 yr old kids weren’t with us.

I guarantee that they will not be coming back with their husbands and children. They take their families to Sanibel. As for me, I am taking my kids to Ft. Myers Beach for 8 days this month.


7 Traveling Terri June 16, 2009 at 9:26 am

We’re one of those semi-retired folks who looked at PCB and liked what we saw going forward. We purchased a condo for the winter months (60’s sounds much better than below zero!) and are excited to be part of the development of the area! We like the name Emerald Coast International Airport because it has a positive and visual image that says much about the way the area is marketing itself.


8 Don June 16, 2009 at 10:12 am

Agree with changing the name to Emerald Coast International Airport. Hopefully this airport will serve a larger area than just Panama City-Bay County and if so the name should reflect the area it hopes to serve. The name should also be inviting to those considering visiting our area. This name change accomplishes that goal.

As far as the other recommendations; definitely…your suggestions require a small investment compared to the potential return for the whole area.

To change the perception of the area from the redneck riviera and spring break capital of the world to one of class requires painting with a broad brush. The first impression is so important for an area. But it cannot stop there. This task requires a working together on many levels. Please keep up the good work. This is just the beginning and the future looks very bright.


9 Eddie C June 16, 2009 at 10:52 am

I agree with many other comments here. I live in Atlanta and had always heard that PCB was the “Redneck Riviera” and a basically tacky redneck beach for spring breakers. We all know the beaches and emerald waters are beautiful, and PCB has made some strides over the years to upgrade the image. Pier Park is a fantastic addition! But PCB needs to clean up all the trash and tackiness (airbrush shops, tattoo parlors, rundown buildings, power lines, temporary signs for condos never built, etc.). And PLEASE stop marketing to high school and college spring breakers!!!! This really damages the image and reputation of PCB. Obviously many businesses (mostly bars and liquor stores) really profit from this but it hurts PCB much more than it helps, believe me!

I also like Emerald Coast International Airport.


10 Kathy June 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

We are in the older-age category – zeroing in on retirement, and will be coming to PCB for the first time this fall so I can’t comment on the present appearances. I know priorities will vary among demographics, but as someone who might be spending a month or more there at a time my priority and what I’ll be looking at will be things such as accessible sidewalks, public transportation – anything that allows you to leave the car in the carpark most days rather than clogging up the streets with yet another vehicle and littering the scenery with another parked car. As for renaming the airport, I’m sure this will happen, but do airport authorities ever forego the chance to sell naming rights? Expect to have the airport named after some very rich local person or corporation LOL.


11 Jeff June 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

Also, Build a large convention center!


12 Donald Docken June 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Jason, I’m absolutely sure that you echo the observations and comments of a majority of the property owners on the BEACH. I personally think you have laid out an impressive game plan that needs to be embraced by the City and the key business stakeholders on the BEACH. There is no doubt that it will take time to implement the key “IMPRESSIONS” that reflect the way WE see the future of the BEACH, however, most of these concepts are already in motion,[R Jackson upgrade was clearly a timing error as it relates to reflecting tomorrows IMAGE]. I feel Hunter is right about several things, but missed his point about the airport name — Emerald Coast International Airport works, because it creates the image that will seemlessly reflect the desired future.

Where do we go from here ???? There’s too much good thinking to let it just be chatter!!!!!!

Don Docken


13 Greg June 19, 2009 at 3:57 am

Jason, you are right on with your improvement thoughts. I own a second home off Thomas Drive, and sometimes wonder if I made a mistake by buying in Bay County! The amount of trash is unbelievable, everywhere you look there are cans and bottles (what happened to recycling?), vacant lots with palm clippings and broken beach chairs. The new sidewalks on Thomas may get done in my lifetime, but if you walk on them, again all you see is trash and weeds. And look at Seltzer Park sometime. It’s a beautiful location, fills up almost every day in the summer, but I don’t think Bay County has spent over 5 dollars in maintenance since it was built. What a shame.


14 Gregg June 19, 2009 at 6:28 am

Like Greg we own a condo off Thomas Drive and echo his feelings. The trash is unbelievable and I don’t see any concern for the situation with the folks that could attack this issue.
In addition, another problem that just gets ignored, is the abandoned buildings. Next door to our complex is a 8 unit where the roof has partially caved in, most of the doors are wide open (you can just imagine what might go on inside), the ceilings have mostly fallen in, junk everywhere, etc, etc. Less than a block away there is an old abandoned motel. It does have a fence around it but it does not look like the grass has been cut in years plus junk and trash have been thrown over the fence. I’m sure the inside does not look any better than the outside.
I’m sure if one was to look around, PCB is full of these examples. Until “someone” decides that these eyesores must be taken care of, we will remain a second rate resort town. These are simple cheap fixes and very low hanging fruit, our town just needs to be cleaned up!


15 Vicki June 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm

How bout starting with a simple recycling plan? I’m from Michigan and spent the past two weeks in PCB, making a comparison of the amount of stuff I put in the garbage vs. what I could have recycled. I filled up 4 large cans – in Mich. that would have been 1 small plastic grocery bag of trash and 3/4 of a large can of recyclables for each large can. Talk to your congressmen about starting with a bottle/can law; or one for aluminum, plastic, and newspapers. I guarantee the cost of trash clean-up would go way down – what the community didn’t recycle from conscience, the needy would for cash.