Identity
6:40 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Does The Word "Beach" Make South Florida Cities Cooler?

Some South Florida cities were born beaches -- others just kind of decided to become beaches.

In recent years, several cities have attempted to raise their profiles and attract tourists by tacking a "Beach" onto the end of their names.

Just last month, Lake Worth Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell proposed changing the city's name to "Lake Worth Beach." He says the new name would make the city stand out from other parts of the county with Lake Worth mailing addresses. More importantly, Maxwell says it would make the city more appealing to tourists.

"For those who say, 'Well, Lake Worth has to have an identity. We need to figure out what our brand is going be.’  What better way to start looking at our brand than telling everybody who we really are?” says Maxwell.

But from the start, he said he wasn't married to the idea.
 
"If this is going to be a divisive issue and this is really going to cause pain in the community,” adds Maxwell, “I will pull it in a millisecond.”

And during the last city commission meeting, that's exactly what he did.  When Maxwell put a motion on the table not to approve the change, Lake Worth commissioners all agreed and the issue was tossed out.

But in recent years, other South Florida cities have seen the marketing value of the “B-word.”

Dania Beach commissioner Anne Castro was just a private citizen in 1998 when Dania residents voted to add "Beach" to the city's name.

"When people from Europe or South America or whatever -- when they say 'Dania' it doesn't make a lot of sense to them.  When they say 'Dania Beach' they say, “It has a beach. Let's go there.’ "

She says the economic impact of the name-change is difficult to measure, but it does help define the city as a tourist destination.

"For our city it was a good thing because we were a city that was very much in need of redevelopment and rejuvenation,” says Castro. “And I think that adding that extra asset to our name helps." 

One year after Dania's rechristening, the city of Hallandale became "Hallandale Beach."

"We were primarily known as an elderly community,” recalls former City Manager Mark Antonio.  “And now, with that rebranding of adding that 'Beach' to our name, we also went along and changed some development codes and some building criteria to make it more business-friendly. And also to attract tourism." 

Does "Beach" Equal Bucks?

But marketing experts say there's little hard evidence to suggest that simply advertising a city's coastal qualities with a "beachy" name leads to more tourism dollars.

"Fort Lauderdale has done well without having 'Beach' in their name," says Peter Ritchie, Director of Florida Atlantic University's Hospitality Management Program.

He remembers the confusion that often arose among tourists visiting a Deerfield Beach hotel he managed several years ago.

"We did have guests who would say, you know, ‘Why do you have Deerfield Beach in your name when you're not on the beach?’  And I would tell them the name of the city was Deerfield Beach. And they wouldn't believe it sometimes. They'd say 'Oh! There must be Deerfield Beach and there must be Deerfield.’" 

Now that a name-change is no longer in Lake Worth's immediate future, the city is looking for different ways to attract tourists and improve the quality of life for residents. Right now, there's a petition drive to put a building-height restriction on the November ballot. The group leading the drive says a downtown full of tall buildings would spoil Lake Worth's small-town feel.