Who needs The Situation and Snooki when we have Jimmy Buffett and South Beach and, apparently plenty of Hooters girls to boost our bottom line?
The editors of Coedmagazine.com. base their decidedly non-scientific rankings on Spring Break cred boosters like Girls Gone Wild shoots, number of Hooters restaurants, tattoo parlors, liquor stores and strip clubs. Also, easy access to open containers and bars with liberal closing times.
Fort Lauderdale failed to make the list of the sunny delights and boozy bacchanals – a slight that Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, welcomes.
“We removed trashy from our description years ago,” she says happily.
Not surprising, given that the Broward County city, once famed for bouncy beach movies like Where the Boys Are and for putting Spring Break on the cultural map at rowdy bars like the old Elbo Room on A-I-A, has spent $50 million in marketing over 20 years to rid itself of its old reputation.
“I hear from other cities on those lists, ‘How did you get out of that?’ We are influencing other Spring Break-Interruptus. We put a name to it,” Grossman says.
She remembers the Fort Lauderdale scene in 1985 when tents were permitted on the beach, Budweiser hawked free beer to college students and the Philip Morris company gave away free cigarettes to the buxom blonds and buff boys of spring time.
The area’s hotel industry went to the Convention Bureau waving a white flag, offering to invest in upgrading their properties for a different clientel if the city could successfully develop a marketing strategy that didn’t rely on the three Bs: beer, boobs and beach.
“This took five years but we’ve improved year after year since 1990,” Grossman says. “Some cities are almost at the point where they feel confident and a credible destination that can live without college students. Economics notwithstanding, cities around Florida are looking to undo what MTV has done to them.”
As for the two South Florida hot spots that did make the dubious honor?
William Talbert, Grossman’s counterpart at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, did not return calls from The Miami Herald.
Andy Newman, who handles media relations for the Keys Tourism Council, dismissed the website.
“How do you take a website seriously such as this, let’s take a look at the headlines: ‘Meet the Man Who Sells Property on the Moon’ and ‘Porn Stars Before and After the Makeup.’ Please!
“We don’t market to tourist spring breakers,” Newman said. “There are private businesses that do, but I don’t believe it will have an impact either way.”
The site might have to adjust its formula for next year’s picks, however. Girls Gone Wild filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and, with sales flattening, Hooters recently announced an evolving three- to five-year plan to entice more female customers with healthier offerings like salads and remodeled restaurants.