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.
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.