9 of the 11 committee members were present. Absent were Debi Knight and Ann Henry.
Committee member Paul Wohlford made a presentation on the options for a holiday-oriented event to increase tourist visitors in December. A short discussion took place and a more through discussion was scheduled for the March meeting.
Brochure Rack Policy
President Dan Rowe advised the committee that he felt that the TDC Visitors’ Information Center Brochure Display Racks Policy of June 1995 needed to be updated. Rowe felt that the current policy might be overly restrictive and possibly should be revised to allow brochures for additional businesses/attractions such as attractions outside the taxing district(PCB only), vacation rentals by owners, and nanny services. Some members expressed concern that allowing brochures from outside PCB would end up helping Destin, while other members felt that promoting the entire area was important. Kirk Lancaster made the important point that PCB has a major price advantage over Destin.
PCB’s price advantage could be very useful this year due to the slowing economy and economic uncertainty. In addition, the fact that a large portion of our available accommodations have modern advantages that comparable accommodations to our west lack could be a successful marketing tool. We need to attempt to attract these tourists who are already used to visiting the Emerald Coast rather than just assuming that the Destin visitor will not come here.www.Panamacitybeach.com
Charles Mason, the domain owner, made a presentation to the committee about the importance of generic .com names such as panamacitybeach.com. The CVB currently uses the domain name thebeachloversbeach.com which is not likely to be found by potential visitors without the use of a search engine, print advertising, or purchased banner advertising. Although Mason was not presenting any specific proposal due to the limited time he was allocated, he explained that he was interested in either selling or licensing his domain name.
There was clearly some opposition to working with Mason expressed by committee members. Some members are of the belief that Mason engages in intellectual squatting. One expressed the belief that at least some of Panama City related domain names that Mason apparently owns could be taken away based on legal precedent. Mason disagreed claiming that this precedent only applies to trademarked names, not generic names. Other members acknowledged that Mason does possess an important asset for marketing our destination and that the CVB should consider working with him. At one point Mason mentioned that he had received a proposal to lease the domain name at a cost of $150,000/year which received some negative comments from members. The committee ended up suggesting that President Rowe negotiate a proposal with Mason for presentation to the committee or CVB board.
While I can definitely understand the committee’s concern about turning over significant governmental funds to someone who likely has a comparatively small amount invested in his asset, I would suggest that the CVB instead concentrate on what the value of the domain might be to the CVB. I believe that panamacitybeach.com would likely result in greater results than thebeachloversbeach.com and would reduce keyword and banner advertising expense; however, the CVB obviously should seek expert opinion rather than trusting Mason’s numbers. Even $150,000/year might end up being a bargain when compared to the amount the CVB currently spends driving traffic to its current site or the cost of print advertising.
Indian Summer Festival
President Rowe presented his report of the work of the Indian Summer Festival Sub-committee which included the follow-up research requested by the sub-committee. Surveys taken around PCB during the 2007 festival weekend show that the festival played a part in 75.9% those visiting that weekend. Since the surveys were not exclusively taken at the festival, it is my opinion that the data will unfortunately not answer the question of whether the festival is more of a tourist draw or more of a local-resident event. Rowe evaluated other festivals and came to understand that the Indian Summer Festival is the only gulf coast festival that is produced by a TDC/CVB. It is also his conclusion that festivals must have a strong local organizing committee to be successful.
Rowe’s report concluded that the following were Hurdles Facing Indian Summer Festival:
* Weak/Negative Brand Identification
* Lack of local organizing committee support/leadership
* Competition from other festivals and fall activities
* Heavily dependent on weather
* Lack of food & beverage infrastructure at Frank Brown Park
* Competition for financial resources among funding organization and sponsors
The report included possible recommendations the CVB could follow:
· Solicit local chamber of commerce or civic organization to assume operational control and ownership of event
· Solicit an event organizer to take over operational control of the event (I assume that this would be similar to the agreement with Ron Johnson/Sound Associates during recent years)
· Retire the festival and allocate the budgeted funds to other uses
After a motion by Joe Kennedy, the committee voted 7-2 to suggest that the CVB board give President Rowe the authority to solicit proposals from outside organizations or promoters to take over operational control of event. The motion also suggested that Rowe could consider transferring ownership of the event to a local organization.
Sharlet Brennan from Y Partnership, the CVB’s agency, apprised the committee about the agency’s current public relations work. Based on her presentation, it appears that Y Partnership continues to be very successful in bringing significant advertising value to PCB by facilitating free editorial content in magazines, newspapers, and the internet.Print Story