On Tuesday afternoon, Bay County’s newly formed branch of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, or FRLA, met for the first time at the new Palms Convention center.
A long agenda couldn’t keep the conversation from remaining on a single topic: training. Comments from the likes of Julie Hilton, Jack Bishop and Paul Wohlford all centered on the need to and the benefit of having food/alcohol and hospitality training services for beach employees. “We need a lesson in hospitality,” Mr. Bishop acknowledged, “We sometimes treat our tourists like invaders.”
Conversations weren’t just about the concierge side of things, but the need to make sure the destination as a whole is versed in things like vendor responsibility, food safety, sexual harassment awareness and more. The inevitable goal of Bay County’s FRLA branch will be to lead the county in the delegation of efforts such as training and supplying information on regulatory compliance services. This training will be key in preparing for Bay County’s anticipated tourism boost when the new airport opens. The sentiment throughout the meeting was that, as of now, Bay County is simply not prepared on a professional level to handle the possible influx of new tourists.
Discussions about the airport during the meeting spurred a constructive debate on the need to extend training to Panama City Beach’s transportation sector. Mr. Wohlford stated frankly, “We need better trained ground transportation.” He went on to say. “These are our concierge. I think it’s important that these guys [transportation sector] are trained and knowledgeable about where to stay, where to eat and so on. They are going to be the first impression on our tourists.”
The Bay County FRLA branch began creating committees that will spearhead efforts, in conjunction with the CVB and local Chambers, to make sure standardized hospitality training is available for all local businesses. This will be the first step in making Panama City Beach a better overall destination for tourists both current and future.
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