Panama City Beach, Fla., has been a popular spring break hot spot for the past 25 years. Several thousand people party in PCB every year from all over the country. PCB has earned a bad rep for incidents that have been highlighted in the media. Each year the crowd seems wilder and more promiscuous than the year before. I know, as a college student, people want to enjoy their spring break to the fullest. I mean you’re only young once right? PCB has a crowd that is licentious and chaotic, so if you aren’t ready to be surrounded by shameless college students then this isn’t the place to be. No, not everyone who partakes in the spring break right of passage in PCB is an intoxicated, immoral student, but that’s the image spring breakers bring to the city.
The PCB Tourist Development Council has been sending mixed messages about the reputation they want for the city. Just a couple of years ago they allocated money to draw the MTV crowd; now they are reversing that decision and trying to gain a more family-oriented image. The new Pier Park shopping center is a step towards a more family-friendly environment.
From a public relations standpoint, I can see why a good image is so important for the city. I think many locals will be unhappy with a decision that drives away college students, but students will move on to the next spring break destination. According to a pcbdaily.com article, the TDC’s perspective of a cleaner image means no more MTV advertisements or events and a much stronger police presence during spring break. Limiting paid advertising to “Spring Break Responsibly” campaigns, engaging in proactive spring break public relations activities and developing a spring break section of VisitPanamaCityBeach.com with spring break responsibly messages are some actions the TDC has taken to improve the city’s reputation.
In the comments section of the pcbdaily.com article, a PCB resident voiced support for the spring break re-branding initiative: “The argument has been that a family will spend more money here than a college student, we just have to let families know that this is a good place to come when they are on spring break vacation. There will always be college kids coming here for spring break; we live in a beach town. However, to promote a crazy party atmosphere, I feel, is detrimental to our area.” Of course families enjoy Panama City Beach because it offers numerous activities including shopping and restaurants.
Other residents are divided on the issue. Some see the benefits of a swarm of intoxicated college students spending their cash at local businesses. A PCB resident said, “The college crowds have some bad points, but the good far out weigh the bad. It’s nice to see the beaches full of people after a quiet winter.” Some fear the more family-friendly image of PCB will drive away college spring breakers and hurt the local economy. “It’s a ghost town and it’s been that way since they ran off Spring Break. It all started with them wanting to change their image,” voiced a concerned resident referring to Daytona Beach, Fla., when it revamped its image.
If Panama City Beach wants to improve its spring break image, it could be difficult. Spring Break 2010 in PCB will still be full of college students and parties. If the city does decide to embrace its new family-friendly image, don’t expect it to take effect for a while.