Gorgeous Outside, Heavy Brainstorms Inside

by September 25, 2008 • 1 comment

Tuesday, September 23: TDC Marketing Committee Meeting

Highlights of ideas from the new marketing committee.

Russ Smith of the Towne of Seahaven  brought up the success of filling beds through wholesalers (Expedia, Travelocity, Bay County’s very own BookIt, etc.)

Probably the single easiest and most effective tactic the TDC/CVB could execute would be to buy ad space on the major wholesaler sites, driving travelers to the independent properties who sell rooms via these websites.

How Wholesalers Work (in a nutshell)

  • Properties provide inventory to the wholesaler.  At a wholesale price, of course.
  • The Wholesalers already have working websites that would enable a hotel or condo to sell rooms, then and there, online, 24/7.
  • They have HUGE amounts of travelers booking through their sites daily.. or at least shopping rates.
  • They spend HUGE amounts of advertising dollars to drive visitors to their sites

How Should the TDC Participate?

  • Bring all the wholesalers to our beach for workshops that show our Bed Tax Collectors how to get involved and sell rooms online.  Smith indicated that his reps at Expedia told him they were very willing to help us sell all this new inventory.
  • Buy advertising within the wholesaler sites, introducing travelers to Panama City Beach as they make vacation or business travel plans.

Concern about Wholesaling

  • The hospitality world must move online, and the tourist markets LOVE this wholesaling concept.
  • Property owners like retail concepts. We can’t wholesale the whole beach, year round.  Improving price and value, by ensuring the product is as clean, safe and rewarding as possible, will also increase wholesale value.


Lee Ann Leonard of By The Sea Resorts  brought up an idea for the Family Spring Break campaign: kids storming the beach, as in “reclaiming” the beach after the college students are gone.  That’s a brilliant message, it addresses the reality of the anti-spring break identity and moves ahead in a positive direction.  Proof that we don’t need better brains from out of town making up our creative messaging.


Annie Holcombe of Oaseas has the unique opportunity to sell in both Bay and Walton counties.  She said when selling group accommodations to Atlanta, they won’t even talk to you if you say ‘Panama City Beach.’  Say ‘Destin’, and they’ll listen.  This is such a very important opportunity that no one wants to focus on.

We must change that perception because we have many new facilities at a much greater value than South Walton and Okaloosa.  Whenever I mention those in Atlanta who hate us, I must remind you of the hundreds of thousands who don’t even know us. Proper research would prove me right or wrong, but I would venture to say that between 1-2 Million Metro Atlanta residents do not know who we are, what we have to offer nor that we’re only a short 5 hour drive down the road.


Bryan Durta… all the PCBDaily readers know who he is… brought up a couple things.  He quickly noted that an online “win a vacation” contest wouldn’t be very newsworthy with just one winner, so he suggested a juicier option, such as a giving away a free month every day to multiple winners.  That got the committee excited.  Something like “900 Nights Free at the Beach” was one of the  rough concepts.  It would be smart to give people a taste of what we really have to offer down here… but will the condo and hotel owners give up that many rooms?

Bryan questioned the drive-to market spending and suggested ideas relating to new markets.  This is a common argument on the beach.  I’m a drive-to market believer.  Regarding outer “emerging” markets, I’m convinced that if Mom and Dad are going to pack up the car to drive 12 hours to Florida, they’re going to take the extra few hours to go see Mickey.  Just a hunch, but I bet most outer-market families cannot afford to fly to PCB at this time. Or if they do have that kind of vacation budget, they’re not going to choose us.

None of us will know who is right or wrong on this issue until proper research is conducted.


I called Amy Harris of Royal American Hospitality and asked her thoughts on the marketing plan; she discussed the idea of targeting University Alumni to reach DINKs (double income, no kids) and KISs (Kids in Strollers) for the shoulder seasons.  That’s a smart idea, especially if Y Partnership is still figuring out where to post online ads.

So, rest assured that the new marketing committee has a lot of brain power, even though I am no longer on it. :c)

Why Ask Y?

It was “deja vu all over again” as the new TDC Marketing Committee reviewed the CVB / Y Partnership 2009 marketing plan.  Some faces were new, but many of the questions remained the same:

“Should we really target that $75K demo?”
“Are we missing opportunities in the Midwest, Northeast and other emerging markets?”
“Are you sure it’s best to spend most of our budget in the drive-to markets during the summer?”

We have had the same advertising / marketing agency for over 5 years.  These questions should be answered by now – posted up on a wall in big, colorful graphs and maps.  It was requested of the agency more than once by the former marketing committee to start delivering — at the very least — Google Analytics.  This simple (and free!) data would give the TDC Board information about new target markets.  For instance, Google Analytics will tell you — down to the city — from where your site visitors came.

So why ask Y these questions?  You might as well not, because they have proven that they “just don’t know.”  (“I just don’t know” was an exact quote from the account exec when discussing a proper message and target market for the summer campaign.)

I’m as sick of bashing the work of these nice folks as you are of hearing it, but this is business.  We deserve better results for the investment.  And if any single one of you TDC Board members, committee members, Y Partnership agents, business owners or Bay County residents wants to discuss with me all the other ways this agency has disappointed from a client’s perspective, please feel free to take me to lunch for clear explanations.  Yes, that means you’d buy lunch… but satisfaction is guaranteed.

We need a TDC Beat Reporter

Bryan Durta, PLEASE reconsider posting your thorough notes and the TDC/CVB collaterals, leaving your opinions and ideas for the committee work.  As you can see, a commentator is all I be!

Any other detail-oriented, organized fact-takers, please contact Jason@PCBDaily.com.


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1 Comment


1 Nick De Stefano September 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

CLEAN UP AND LANDSCAPE THOMAS DRIVE AND FRONT BEACH ROAD, ADD WIDE SIDEWALKS AND REMOVE THE EYESORES. Take care of the basics that would make PCB a more attractive place to come to.