Notes and Comments from the 2/6/08 TDC/CVB Marketing Committee Meeting

by February 13, 2008 • 3 comments

9 of the 11 committee members were present. Absent were Debi Knight and Ann Henry.

Holiday Celebration

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

Charles Mason, the domain owner, made a presentation to the committee about the importance of generic .com names such as The CVB currently uses the domain name 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 would likely result in greater results than 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.

PR Update

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.

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1 Don February 14, 2008 at 11:55 am

It is with some disappointment that I read this post. Currently there is a new group called Coastal Vision 3000 which includes as its founders and stewards a number of members of this TDC and other organizations present. The goal of CV3000 is for the community that includes Gulf, Bay, Walton and Okaloosa to begin working together. This area is in dire need of its leaders putting aside political and ego issues and working for the good of the whole. More information on CV3000 is available at . More information will be available as this rolls out in April 2008.

We need to put aside the competition between the areas in these counties and begin to attract new visitors to our entire area. I hope that the TDC will reconsider using price as their marketing tool for PCB because a price war will hurt all. Instead focus on ways to lure new visitors to these areas beaches. We have the most beautiful beaches in the world. While there may be many beaches in the world, only one–ours–is unique enough to be called, simply, THE Beach.


2 Bryan Durta February 15, 2008 at 8:59 am


The Panama City Beach CVB board did vote this past Tuesday to participate in CV3000 at the $15,000 level. I am also happy to report that the discussion did not include any of the anti-Destin sentiment that was expressed at last weeks Marketing Committee meeting.

While I agree with the board that CV3000 is an important initiative that should be supported, PCB must still promote our individual competitive advantages. I do not believe that anyone is suggesting a price war. It is just a fact that more modern accommodations in PCB are available at a lower price. Our neighbors to the west have different competitive advantages such as more shopping, more dining, and a more family-friendly environment.

Bryan Durta


3 Don February 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

It would be my hope that we could compete with areas beyond our collective borders. All within our area are hurting and to take one from another will in the end hurt all of us. Let us all adjust our marketing messages to draw guest to our area because of this area’s superior beaches. This is all of our area’s marketing advantage.

CV3000 will benefit PCB more than any other area, so be careful that marketing efforts are not pitting one area against another. That will cause a loss in CV3000 support causing a loss for all, but more so for PCB.