TDC Needs New Formula for Special Events

by September 17, 2008 • 3 comments

Special events at the beach are wonderful for Bay County.  The biggest events, Spring Break and Thunder Beach,  drive huge amounts of tourists to Panama City Beach.

Smaller events bring in good revenue for the bed tax collectors (and beneficiaries), such as the Ironman and Gulf Coast Triathlons, Emerald Coast Cruizin’ car show, and hopefully, the new Panama City Beach Seafood, Wine, & Music Festival.

There are a few other small events, but we need many more small and large in order for the tourism economy to thrive year-round.  It is  — and should be —  a top priority  for the TDC/CVB to enable and promote special events.

But with special events come special interests, and special interests have no place in our government spending decisions.

Therefore, in order for the TDC to be fair to all event planners, promoters, the bed tax collectors (and beneficiaries), and the citizens of Bay County, they must avoid any conflict of special interests.

Here are a few ways to make this happen:

1. Put bed tax dollars into infrastructure that holds special events, such as stages, fairgrounds, parking lots, ball fields and other outdoor venues. Make it a great place for a promoter to put on an event and succeed.

2. Provide additional support for safety and trash-control during events.

3. Maintain infrastructure.

4. Instead of paying to promote events to tourists, promote Panama City Beach to potential event promoters.

5. Provide marketing research staff to survey event attendees. This tells the individual businesses which events bring what tourists, and helps them do their own marketing/advertising/event sponsorships accordingly.

6. Provide Public Relations support and website exposure for all events.

There! Good! No complaints from anyone.

Hopefully bed tax collectors will agree there needs to be a new policy.  But whether you do or not, here are some clear examples of what has happened recently to prove why it is unwise for the TDC to put funding into promoters’ pockets.

1. There is a process in place that a promoter must go through to be considered for TDC event funding.  As pointed out in recent articles, that policy has not been followed.  Therefore, it’s unfair to some, very fair to others and no fair to the rest of us.

2.  The promoters are sometimes more shifty than thrifty.  Some claim they don’t need TDC money, then get it anyway.  Some disappear.  Some make promises they have no intention of keeping.  It’s no fun watching – or participating in – a government body that must make spending decisions on people / events that really do not have to be accountable.

3. Events can fail.  The Circus by the Sea proposal was unique in that they approached the TDC for a $100K “loan” that would be paid back upon success.  Most everyone on the TDC and in the business community, including myself, was certain the circus would be a success.  Unfortunately it was not.  That money is gone, unless the Circus by the Sea miraculously figures out how to market its event and fill its tent.  We would have been better off buying 100,000 Lotto tickets.

Hey… Lotto Tickets with Bed Tax Dollars!  Not a bad idea compared to the way Special Event money has been handed out lately.

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1 D. Bob September 20, 2008 at 11:06 am

Good Article! Keep it up!


2 Bryan Durta September 20, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Lots of great ideas Kirk. I would like to think that a fair level playing field would result in more events, more visitors, and more bed tax being collected. Your suggestions should be very helpful as the TDC/CVB carries out this year’s planned transition away from direct funding to event promoters.


3 Nancy September 23, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Kirk, you are dead on. #4 should be how we view any event and the rest of your comments are things that need to be in place before #4 can be accomplished. The TDC also needs to study how other cities, small and large accomplish success with a venue and find out who the promoters are that achieve success doing the show. I have been around the music business for the past 26 years in large cities and small. Promoters come and go with “big” ideas that never pan out.