The Duality of Daytona Beach

“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.”

Really? 

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. . .)

Whatever. 

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.”

Sound familiar?

It should.

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.   

9 thoughts on “The Duality of Daytona Beach

  1. I can tell the powers what to do ! And I will charge them 10 dollars! Stop trying to reinvent the wheel. The beach is everything. Keep it simple stupid. And keep Polical insiders out of conversation, whites, browns etc.

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    1. The beach is a dump with empty prostitute and drug filled motels.Beach in Daytona should be embarrassed for the trash restaurants they have.This beach is not traveled by me and my wife as we live in Ormond and spent our honeymoon here in 1972 when it was nice .It is now Coney Island without Nathans.The beach suks and kids should not be allowed to walk on the beach without a parent.

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      1. Peter stay in ormond. Leave Daytona beach to people who live in Daytona. Luv traffic jams on Granada. Can’t wait until Avalon park built and Granada has to be widened and take out those gorgeous islands. Enjoy Peter.😊

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      2. Ted it will take a decade to fix up that beach.The good thing is I can sell my home in a week and get 400k more than I paid for it 5 years ago.Wont miss your dumb as hell mayor either that likes mail in ballots that Charlie Crist fired him as a commissioner and he quit his job in the Daytona school system and maybe I will move to a city that doesnt have a rag newspaper with 3 day old news that the editor knows it is time to retire.Avalon will take over 10 years but we have a lot less crime than you and ISB looks like a dump they are all coming up to LPGA which is Daytona and a busier traffic shithole than Ormond.as Avalon and Margaritaville are stuck in traffic on that bridge that your mayor never did anything about.Spending Christmas in Palm Beach.Merry Christmas.Have a good time at Bu-cees for Christmas.

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  2. Open up the beach.

    It is really that simple: from Granada down to the Inlet, wide open fun.

    Would prefer the tolls to be little more affordable. No need to completely shakedown the tourists; they are getting enough of that up at the hotels and restaurants. Plenty of things do not pay for themselves: Voltran, parks, etc.

    Stop walling off the beach — or Beach Street for that matter. Quaint and cute. Think Downtown DeLand is or Flagler Ave New Smyrna is.

    These out of proportion building projects, like the whole debacle that is everything from Oakridge down to Harvey, or what is becoming of North Beach Street, needs to stop. It is grotesque and out of character with the surrounding areas and not worth the price of admission.

    Open up the beach.

    There is nothing intrinsically special about our beach. In fact, most of it is honestly unattractive with the sand dunes long gone, and a back alley affect with the sea walls. However! You can drive on it. Which makes us extremely unique, desirable, and a must-do on any visit into Central Florida.

    Do what ever it takes, but we’all need to open the beach back up. We need to own who we are. Daytrippers, people staying one night maybe two before heading to other parts, who cares, their money is just a green. This on going fantasy of trying to Bal Harbour ain’t gonna happen folks.

    Open up the beach.

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  3. Not everyone likes or wants driving on the beach. The Daytona Beach Convention Center, the visitors & convention bureau and the Halifax Advertising Board and agency should all be downsized and rebranded.
    Dumpy area we are.

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  4. Why not go back to the 70’s where the beach was free and free to drive from Ormond pier to the jetties in Ponce Inlet ! When we could have weekend long parties and bonfires and camping.

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