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Spring Break in PCB: Family Friendly or College Crazy?

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 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 with spring break responsibly messages are some actions the TDC has taken to improve the city’s reputation.

In the comments section of the 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.

by Autumn Winsett


  1. Post comment

    i lived here all my life im 24 now…this place is a ghost town without spring break…..and ur crazy thinking that a family would spend anywhere near as much as a collage student ……spring break here aint goin no where so suck it up lol…..I LOVE MY HOME TOWN “”PANAMA CITY FL, “”””

  2. Post comment

    Gee… Here I was searching for a SB location for us this year. We SB every year – and was hoping PCB could be our new destination. Guess it would be safer to choose some place else!

  3. Post comment

    When I think about the typical spring break destination, Panama City Beach is the first place that comes to mind. If you are looking for a place to release your inhibitions and go wild, PCB is the place for you. I think it would be difficult for the city to lose the reputation of being a party destination solely because that is what it has been for the last 25 years.
    I disagree with the article when it says families will spend more money then college students. A lot of money families would spend would be at restaurants or theme parks. In these poor economic times, many restaurants have special offers for kids, like kids eat free or half-off. This being said, families really wouldn’t spend that much money. College students, on the other had, will usually eat out every meal and have enormous bar tabs every day they are on vacation.
    I think Panama City Beach should stay what it’s known for: a spring break party destination.

  4. Post comment

    Panama City beach will always have the reputation of being the spring break hotspot. Since it has had that reputation for over 25 years, I find it difficult that it can make a big enough impact on families to change its reputation. Yes, they can build new shopping centers and restaurants, but college students enjoy those places too, right? I can see parents remaining hesitant for several years before planning a spring break vacation there. I think many are going to hold off to see if the PCB Tourist Development Council is going to follow through with their plans. Until then, PCB is going to see that spring break will continue to be a success with the college crowd.

  5. Post comment

    I personally feel that the Tourist Development Council is wasting their time trying to revamp Panama City’s image for two reasons. First, I disagree with the resident’s opinion that a family is more likely to spend more money than a college student during spring break. Families spend the majority of their vacation time by eating out, relaxing on the beach and site-seeing. College students eat out just as often with an additional bar tab probably twice as high as their meal. Additionally, a group of students will rent multiple hotel rooms or condos whereas a family only has the need for one. Second, the TDC should take into account not only how PCB feels about college spring breakers, but how those spring breakers feel about PCB. Everyone knows that trends are only cool for a certain amount of time. People eventually get bored with it, and move on to the next new and exciting one. The same goes for vacation destinations. Students began traveling to PCB because MTV told them to. Now that they’ve gotten bored with the same beaches, bars and restaurants, they’re moving on to destinations such as Seagrove and Grayton Beach. I think that the TCD will find the same results and save a lot of time and money if they simply let this theory take effect, wait for the trend to finish dying down and go from there.

  6. Post comment

    Growing up visiting my grandparents, who are residents of Panama City, I can highly identify with this post. I can remember riding in the back seat of their car feeling embarrassed because the spring breakers sitting in the bed of the truck in front of us decided to remove their tops.

    I feel that Panama City, as a beach, has so much more to offer than the crazy party scene brought about my the MTV craze. I respect the efforts the city is making to create a more family friendly environment, however long it takes for the change to take place.


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