9/2/08 TDC/CVB: Budget Approved Without Any Changes

by September 3, 2008 • 5 comments

8 of the 9 board members were present for the special meeting that was called last Friday. Absent was Mike Nelson. Public attendance was probably the smallest it has been in the last year. It’s anyone’s guess whether this was due to the unusual scheduling of the meeting, a lack of public interest, or the public just agreeing with the priorities of the TDC/CVB as set out in the budget.

The board unanimously approved the FY 2009 budget which begins on October 1st. The budgets were accepted as proposed by staff and no motions were made suggesting any changes. Final approval will now be up to the Bay County Commission which is scheduled to take up the matter on Setember 16th.

A few highlights:

College Spring Break: The budget provides for $250,000($150,000 CVB and $100,000 co-op) for College Spring Break marketing. President Rowe advised that a proposal has been received from mtvU to return. Considering the prior board discussion about whether the CVB should be in the college spring business and the promise of a public discussion that has never taken place, it is quite interesting that the budget for this controversial market segment has now actually been increased.

Sports Marketing: The budget allocates $32,500 to fund a feasibility study for the multi-use indoor facility previously discussed. Mayor Oberst took the opportunity to point out to the board that the bulk of the operating cost of Frank Brown Park is paid for by the City of Panama City Beach. She explained that the City spends about $3 million operating the park while only receiving $400,000 in income from the park.

Special Events: Although the Plan of Work explains that FY 2009 will be a transitional year, the CVB basically plans on providing the same funding as FY 2008. $160,000 in direct funding is included:

$15,000 Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show

$25,000 Emerald Coast Cruzin

$50,000 Wine & Seafood Festival (previously Indian Summer Festival)

$50,000 Grand Lagoon National Fishing Tournament

$10,000 4th of July Fireworks

$10,000 Seabreeze Jazz Festival

Only the Horse Show, EC Cruzin, and the Jazz Festival actually requested funding. I find the $100,000 for the Wine & Seafood Festival and the Grand Lagoon National to be especially disturbing due to the fact that their inaugural 2008 events have not even taken place yet.

Lifeguards: The budget provides no funding for them and no board member even brought up the subject.

Beach Trash: The subject of beach trash came up and some board members expressed their opinion that the blue barrels were unacceptable due to what our competitors were doing. President Rowe expressed his opinion that sufficient funds were not available and that it would be best to wait for a bed tax increase. Obviously this is just another example of the board deciding that advertising is more important. If they really felt it was important, they would reallocate funds now rather than waiting for a bed tax increase that may not be approved by the County Commission.

Public Comment

Kirk Lancaster (Marketing Committee member) expressed his opinion that the “Summer White Sale” was a failure and that that advertising should be brought in-house rather than continuing to use Y Partnership. Lancaster believes that bed tax revenues should be used to improve the visitor experience, not just advertise for the tourist businesses. He spoke specifically about the trash issue suggesting that the board provide for improved cleanup, recycling, and more ascetically-pleasing receptacles.

Charles Mason(owner of panamacitybeach.com) expressed his disappointment over how this special meeting was advertised and scheduled and referred to it as “old TDC style”. Mason also spoke on the beach trash issue. He suggested that at a minimum, funding should be provided for a pilot program.

-Bryan Durta

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1 Kirk Lancaster September 4, 2008 at 10:56 am

Bryan –

Thank you for continuing to be the most informed watchdog and reporter of the TDC/CVB efforts. Your work is greatly appreciated. And Jason, thanks for running this site, PCBDaily.com. It is a great resource for us who care about business in Bay County, and of course on the beach.

I have tried to pick my battles… you point out that there are many with this arm of local government.

Here are the thoughts I summed up for the TDC board after comments Tuesday.
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1. Advertising Budget

We should not advertise until the “product is fixed.” What is wrong with our product?

* Lack of Cleanliness
* Lack of Safety
* Lack of Proper Marketing Research distributed to all Tourism Businesses
* Lack of Sports Complexes to meet Demand
* and above all – A broken image. Our current advertising cannot improve an image. An image must be improved by providing a great product and service… which starts with clean, safe beaches.

I realize Mr. Rowe and Staff are aware of many of these issues and are working to improve them. But if we put our advertising budget into our problems, they will be resolved more quickly.

Another problem I have with spending tax dollars on advertising – no matter what event or message you promote, you’re going to be held accountable by the community. If you quit advertising, and just provided infrastructure support, marketing research and public relations, no one could blame the TDC on problems such as Spring Break disasters, drownings, etc. Can you imagine having TDC meetings without people like Charles Mason, Bryan Durta and myself because we have nothing to complain about? ;c) Get rid of advertising, replace it with tangible research and infrastructure, and get rid of complainers.

So, if we did not advertise, how would we promote our destination?

a. Market Research. This is being done with our existing guests (400 surveys per month), but much more could be accomplished in this area. Imagine giving a report to all local businesses that show who is most likely to visit, where they live, and how to reach them. Then let the hotels, condos, restaurants, fishing boats, retail, attractions and events do their own advertising.

b. In-house creative: Imagine the CVB/TDC offering a beautiful catalog of stock photography and video of Bay County that small businesses could use in their own advertising.

c. In-house Public Relations: I am thankful there is now an in-house marketing team; they should be able to handle Public Relations.

d. Most Importantly – provide a reason for our guests to return home and say “Panama City Beach is a great place to vacation.”

But since we do have an agency, and we are advertising and outsourcing Public Relations…

* Please hold our agency to REMARKABLE standards. The White Sale did not provide remarkable results, and quite honestly, wasn’t even remarkable out of the gate. It was status-quo. Mr. Yesawich said that himself, basically, when he said others are doing “coupon / value / sales” campaigns and it worked for his clients in the past.

* Please consider that we pay this agency hundreds of thousands of dollars that go out of Bay County into Orlando’s economy. With an in-house marketing team, and the ability to outsource tasks (website development, photography, video, press release writing and distribution), we do not need to spend that kind of money on an agency when we have such a small budget. Perhaps one day when our beaches are clean, beautiful, and Richard even has a little problem filling up all our new sports arenas… then we can afford to invest in advertising

2. Trash

I am thankful you realize this is a serious problem. The method we use is not working, and the county should review other options.

My comment I say often about our beaches and trash … “Do you think Buddy Wilkes lets someone walk through his park with a glass bottle? Do you think he lets a diaper sit around in a public space? Are there cigarette butts everywhere? Is there trash floating in his wave pool? Of course not! So why can’t we protect our beaches just as a private attraction would protect their park?”

We must implement a process of prevention instead of cure when it comes to trash on our beaches. When/if the time does come to discuss new trash ideas, I request that I am notified so I may either assist in planning or pitch my own proposal for beach cleanup.

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I also made comments in the meeting that $6 per website visitor is too much to pay for our particular tourism industry. I have seen great numbers of people seeking information online for Panama City Beach, and a proper ad campaign can drive thousands of visitors to a PCB vacation website for $1-2.

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2 Moe September 6, 2008 at 7:32 pm

They’re doing it again!!!!!! Strategic (LONG TERM) plan was distributed and meeting called for Tuesday the 9th at 9:00am. Plan contains NO details, as THEY are not planning on any questions from the public. What are they up to this week?

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3 Bryan Durta September 7, 2008 at 1:43 am

Moe, thanks for reminding everyone about Tuesday’s meeting. I didn’t even notice that Jason didn’t post the agenda as ususal.

In defense of the board and staff, I believe the meeting this Tuesday the 9th was scheduled back in December. As far as the the Strategic Plan, the agenda refers to a presentation by President Rowe. I assume there has not been a current copy of the draft Plan distributed to anyone, including board members. If anyone other than CVB staff has a copy, I should have received a copy already.

Hopefully the final plan ends up dealing with everything that was brought up at both public meetings, not just the simple stuff that almost everyone agrees on. At the 2nd public meeting, the draft plan kinda seemed to ignore some issues where there is disagreement and/or implementation problems. Hopefully the final plan will end up dealing with everything and doesn’t just sweep difficult issues under the table. I would assume that the board will have to vote on some specific issues of the plan since I don’t see how staff could be making controversial decisions themselves. Then again, some people believe the plan is little more than PR for the tax increase that hasn’t even been voted on by the board.

And the plan’s implementation isn’t really that urgent now since the board already approved next years budget which is basically just a continuation of the FY 2008 budget. I guess changes due to the strategic plan will have to wait until the FY 2010 budget beginning in October 2009.

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4 Jason Koertge September 8, 2008 at 10:09 am

The agenda was posted on Saturday. http://pcbdaily.com/?p=1237
I did not have the word “agenda” in the title line, sorry for the confusion.

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