PANAMA CITY, FL: Hoping to position itself as the Spring Break
capital of the world, the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) of Panama
City, has spent dollars 257,000 - nearly 20% of its dollars 1.5 million
total marketing budget - on positioning itself as a prime college party
destination. The CVB hopes to increase upon last year's 500,000
students, who injected dollars 135.7 million into the economy.
Jayna Leach, director of communications for the CVB, said Spring
Breakers have become a major Panama City market segment. Made unwelcome
by previous destinations including Fort Lauderdale, FL, due to years of
public drunkenness, lewd behavior and even deaths, the Spring Break crew
began coming to Panama City in the early 1990s. Students from Southern
schools were the first to descend on the town, and Panama City had to
decide whether it would encourage or discourage more students from fun
in the Panama Beach sun.
'The community decided it's something we want,' said Leach, who claimed
that the CVB spoke with residents and hotel property owners for years
before beginning its marketing push.
Leach said the CVB specifically targeted Spring Break publicity not to
affect other markets, like winter snowbirds or summer family
Rather, the target audience would be students east of the Mississippi
River who would be reached primarily through campus newspapers and
The CVB also benefits from corporate sponsorship money for Spring
This year, Dr. Pepper hosted a cabana cafe and handed out 100,000 cans
of soda. Can recycling money was donated back to the city and was used
to purchase sea oats, a plant which counters sand erosion which was
planted by student volunteers.
Leach said she could understand why former Spring Break locales have
shunned the lucrative but dangerous Spring Break market, but added that
Panama City is committed to courting the wet T-shirt set.
'Spring Break is only six weeks,' says Leach. 'Once that's done, we get
the clientele we're looking for. But at this point in time, there's not
really any market segment to replace the dollars the students bring in
for March and the first two weeks in April.'