Dana Holloway sent me a letter she is sending the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau with suggestions for varying beach attractions that are centered around the family and goaled at being free or affordable in order to attract visitors that want to do more than sun at the beach.
I am writing you in an effort to help find ways to improve PCB’s attractions without spending much money, and to help prevent any new taxes being imposed on residents here to pay for sports complexes, convention centers or the like. Please take the time to read and consider my suggestions.
Most people who choose to vacation in PCB are not wealthy. And, in reality it is going to be a long time before PCB is able to attract large groups of people with a lot of disposable income. That being said, it is important for us to first concentrate on providing lots of inexpensive or free entertainment while keeping in mind that our biggest sell is the beach. Playing up lots of fun, cheap beach activities will sell our beaches and make us stand out from other beach communities.
Right now the ‘attractions’ we advertise are still too pricey for the average family. Have you priced what it cost to take a family of four to a local attraction? We obviously cannot tell those businesses what to charge for admission, but we can provide our guests with cheaper entertainment alternatives. An attainable goal for us is to make PCB a fun and affordable place for the average family to come. Rental units on the beach cost quite a bit and we obviously can’t control that either, so let’s concentrate on what we can do to make Panama City Beach “the best affordable family vacation destination in the US” by providing cheap or free entertainment on our beaches for lots of family fun and memories. After we do that – we will see more and more people with lots of disposable income choosing our beach over all of their other choices.
more after the break.
Campfire nights on the beach. Once a week during our busiest seasons, have several designated areas on the beach for huge campfires. Perhaps a local coffee house could be convinced to set up a table at each location to sell hot chocolate and hot cider. Let the public bring their own coolers, etc. too. Perhaps some of the firemen or others can be persuaded to volunteer their time to help build the fires. And, may be tree cutters or landscaping companies with junk to discard can donate the stuff to burn.
Sand Castle contests – once a week or day during peak season. Winner’s get $25 or two Free Beach Chair rentals for a day of their choosing or something. Try to attract the big time sand castle contests to PCB too.
Sandboxes. On Saturdays or Sundays, rope off several areas on our beaches with cute attractive signs that joke about ‘world’s largest sandbox’. Have a bunch of little digging toys in a box that all the kids can use.
Pet Obstacle Courses. Every so often set up pet obstacle courses on the beach and advertise the entertainment. You can get local vets and pet store owners to set up a table or two during the events too – because everyone loves to shop for their pets. Encourage more rentals to allow pets, and play that up in advertisements. Attract Pet Shows or contests to our town.
Music on the beach. Use the County Pier location or the Boardwalk’s outdoor pavilion to host a “writer’s night” once a week. The musicians will be free and people can watch music while watching the ocean. Just make sure the free musicians don’t play any loud crazy music that will upset older residents.
Moonlight Dances at the beach. Attract groups like the lady’s Purple Hat clubs, etc. here by advertising music and dancing on the beach. The Boardwalk’s outdoor pavilion is a good place for it. They have to be able to sit or dance while on the ocean to make it unique. Lots of those little lady’s have money to spend and they don’t require extra policemen on duty to keep them under control.
Attract Antique Car Shows or groups to our town – at the park. Those guys usually have money to spend and they don’t usually require us to hire extra policemen either.
Morning Exercise Groups on the beach. Have several meeting places designated on the beaches so every morning all the ladies or guys know where to go if they want to exercise with others by the water. Post signs at each site.
Story Time on the Beach. At different locations have someone sit by the water and read about sea life to the children. The reader can bring little toys to make it even more interesting for them. You can solicit volunteers such as teenagers, older folks, teachers, librarians, etc. to do the reading each day or once a week or weekends.
Affordable Beach Massage. Let and encourage some local massage therapists put up small attractive resort style tent (not cheap crappy looking ones) to give massages at affordable prices on the beach. The tents should be closed on two or three sides for privacy so that the customer can watch the ocean waves, but the other beach guests can’t see the massage be given. I’d pick out one style tent and tell all the massagers that they must use that same tent if they want a permit to give massages on the beach. And, make them all charge the same prices. That way – visitors always know where to go get the massage and how much it will cost them when they walk over there.
It’s ALL about the Beach. Play up the relaxing and the fun on the BEACH.
We definitely need a designated BEACH TROLLEY that only goes up and down Front Beach Road and Thomas Drive, and perhaps on some areas of Middle and Back Beach Roads just near restaurants and Grocery Store. Have it go as far as Pier Park and as far as Captain Andersons. One of the best things about Anna Maria Island is that you don’t have to drive anywhere.
Snowbird Pass. During January and February give a FREE Snowbird Pass to anyone who comes by the Visitor’s Center and shows you their out of state license and proof that they are staying here more than two weeks. Convince local retailers to provide 10-50% discounts to all Snowbird Pass carriers. Get Publix manager, restaurant managers, the Zoo, hair salons, and lots of other places to all participate. THEN – really advertise this to all the Northern States and Canada. It might help Snowbirds decide to give PCB a try over some other place this winter. Find Ways to Get more Snowbirds here!
Christmas at the Beach Party. Have Snowman sand building contests, sand tree building contests that can be decorated with battery operated lights. Have campfire and tables selling hot chocolate, etc.
Have Story Telling night at the beach around a campfire?
MOVIE night at the beach. If not too costly – set up big movie screen on or near the County Pier once a month or once a week during peak season and let everyone sit at the beach and watch a G or PG movie. Someone can set up a popcorn booth and sell canned cokes or hot chocolate too. The Beach Tram can take everyone back to their rental units, houses or condos after the movie.
Instead of Shakespeare in the Park – How about Pirates on the Beach night or other little plays? You can solicit volunteers to perform plays from high schools or other schools or groups.
How about promoting kite boarding at our beaches too? Everyone loves to watch those guys.
My objective was to come up with low cost entertainment, on or near the water, and to attract groups of people that do not require PCB to hire extra police staff. We want to stop attracting the loud and rowdy groups because ultimately that will not get us where we need to be. For an example of what happens to a city when it attracts mainly loud and rowdy groups just look at Daytona Beach. It’s not such a pretty place any more.
Thank you for taking time to read my suggestions. I appreciate all of your efforts to help PCB turn into something we can all be proud of.