“Disengaged Industry and Community: . . .A very real current threat is the consistent indication of being uniformed and having no understanding of the effectiveness of current tourism initiatives. An aggressive and effective communication plan featuring understandable, measurable results is critical for the long-term support and success of tourism. An additional theme in SAG’s meetings was the sense that it is going to be difficult to instill broad based confidence that is vital toward improved collaboration.”
“Product Deterioration: . . .Without resources – leadership and economic – the overall tourism experience in Volusia County will decline. An overall collaborative strategy is needed.”
–“An analysis of Volusia County tourism marketing,” Strategic Advisory Group, (Final Report to the Volusia County Council – now moldering in some dead records morgue in DeLand) issued April 8, 2013, at a cost of $100,000.
Any denizen of Florida’s Fun Coast is familiar with the word dichotomy.
Because it represents our reality.
It defines a “stark division or contrast between two things that are opposed or entirely different,” the partition of a whole into sets or subclasses, something split and completely dissimilar.
When you point out a dichotomy, you draw an unmistakable distinction between two things:
Yin/yang, love/hate, night/day, follower/leader, east and west Volusia, “Old” Daytona and “New” Daytona.
A duality. A polar opposite.
This vocabulary lesson begins our look at the two markedly different communities that comprise Daytona’s languishing core beachside tourist area – the ugly stepsister once known as “The World’s Most Famous Beach” – and the exciting investment and growth along Boomtown Boulevard and points west of I-95 in the retail, residential, and retirement mecca that I call “New Daytona.”
I was reminded of this divergence while reading Jim Abbott’s excellent piece in Monday’s The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Tourism officials seek new ‘brand’ for Daytona Beach – Area’s appearance and past remain barriers,” a tale as old as time, the never-ending yarn of how our tourism and hospitality gurus continue to wring their hands over how to turn this sows ear into a silk purse – throwing good money after bad while repeatedly ignoring the observations and suggestions of highly paid “outside experts” – an exercise in futility that has gone on for decades. . .
In my view, the Halifax Area Advertising Authority’s board of directors has a long history of paying whiz-bang marketing mavens to tell them exactly what they want to hear – while ignoring the same sights, smells, and sensory insults that you and I experience daily.
Depending upon who you talk too, the Daytona Beach Resort Area is either the best thing since sliced bread, recently dubbed the third best place to retire in the United States by US News – or a shit sandwich served up in a dirty ashtray – a dingy place indelibly stained by spring break mayhem and monster truck events, that, as Mr. Abbott aptly said, “…thrust the city into chaos marked by ear-splitting train horns, molar-rattling sound systems and visitors who treated Daytona Beach like an open-air toilet and trash can.”
A weird “Tale of Two Cities,” different sides of the same coin, with both perspectives having validity depending upon your vantagepoint – and resources.
Look, I’m dull-normal on the Wechsler scale at best – certainly not as bright as those political appointees who have been anointed by the Volusia County Council to steward bed tax funds and determine how best to “brand” and market what was once the most beautiful stretch of beach on the Atlantic seaboard – back before we consolidated management and turned the strand into a forest of ugly do this/don’t do that signage and toll booths, punctuated by the malignant blight and stagnation of our core tourist area on Atlantic Avenue and beyond.
I might not be the brightest guy in the room, but I can interpret an intelligence report, and those perennial “Daytona Beach Visitor Profiles” which, for years, have been collected, digested, and produced by the HAAA boards favorite soothsayer, Mid-Florida Marketing and Research, Inc., tell me that “The Beach” – our greatest natural amenity – is repeatedly listed as the “Reason both out-of-state (and in-state) visitors choose Daytona Beach.”
So, why do our hospitality gurus continue to treat tourism marketing of our largest draw like a conundrum wrapped in an enigma?
According to the News-Journal report, the recent HAAA “marathon brainstorming session” (oh, Gawd) reviewed interviews and surveys conducted by MMGY NextFactor, a tony destination marketing firm based in Vancouver, Canada, “…with 151 Daytona Beach tourism industry representatives, local government and business leaders and visitors related to the destination’s image and the issues contributing to it…”
What followed was the typical over-analysis of the obvious – a “discussion” focused on “…developing (a) strategic plan comprised of six elements: A vision statement; mission statement; goals; initiatives; measurable targets to track progress; and a statement of values.”
(Yaaaawn. . .sorry. Heard it all before – and so have you.)
“In MMGY’s survey results, Daytona Beach scored below average in its options for dining, shopping and entertainment, health and safety concerns, and offerings in arts, culture and heritage options…”
“Overall, the destination was characterized as exhibiting more weaknesses than strengths by all sectors of the survey respondents, ranging from tourism industry representatives to local community leaders and visitors.”
A lightbulb-like revelation that we need to “fix the broken things,” like “…the aging core beachside, and the unattractive gateway to the beach that is still East International Speedway Boulevard.”
It cost those Inspector Clouseau-like bumblers on the HAAA Board an investment of $50,000 and another “out-of-town expert” to tell us what we have seen with our own eyes (and been told by countless consultants) for decades?
(Note to self: Get into the travel marketing racket in 2022. . .)
So, what are we going to do about it?
If history repeats – as it always does for those who refuse to learn from it: Nuttin’ much. . .
Therein lies the problem.
With all due respect to those esteemed members of the HAAA Board – pull your head out of your ass and review the myriad “expert opinions” you have already paid for. Dammit.
In their 2012 study, Strategic Advisory Group wrote in their detailed analysis of stakeholder interviews the following regarding our “Tourism Product”:
“The stakeholders expressed concern over the current condition of the tourism “product,” notably the beach side of Daytona Beach. There were many types of concerns expressed. Examples include:
Condition of hotels
Condition of storefronts in high volume areas
Lack of attractive streetscape in key tourism areas
There is widespread concern that there is no “plan” for who is leading the effort and how these challenges can be improved. The issue of improvement in the tourism product was a top priority in most of the interviews.”
I mean, how many ways can someone couch the obvious?
So, the $50,000 question remains:
Has anything fundamentally changed in the decade since the SAG report was tucked away on a groaning shelf in a dusty records morgue at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Complex – apart from a few high-end hotels we were told were a panacea for all our woes – who now clearly fear for their future on the crumbling beachside?
Unfortunately, the answer to that grim query is now crystal clear to anyone paying attention – and we remain horribly conflicted on just who, and what, we want to be as the stuck-on-stupid leadership of our challenged hospitality industry continues to generate hot air fomenting pithy slogans and recreating the most famous “brand” in the world – rehashing the obvious as the product continues to deteriorate – a “déjà vu all over again” absurdity that is destroying the trust of residents and visitors alike.