Survey Reveals Visitor Opinions Of Ocean City

The tourism community is still anxiously awaiting the
verdict on the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association’s plan to raise
room tax rates for increased funds for destination advertising, but if approved,
survey results could be vital in helping the town decide how to spend the
money.

Andy Malis of MGH Advertising, the town’s contracted
advertising agency, presented the survey results to the Tourism Commission,
highlighting the positives and negatives that were garnered from the results.

Online surveys were made available from June through
September this year and as of Sept. 24, resulted in 2,202 responses. Malis
explained that more responses were received, but only surveys that were
completed in their entirety could be included in the results.

Malis highlighted three key findings in the survey
results, which indicated that Ocean City is delivering a great experience, that
visitors are loyal, and that visitors are disappointed in the high costs in
Ocean City.

Malis reported that the majority of visitors are pleased
with their experience in Ocean City. Seventy percent of people scored an eight,
nine, or 10 on a 10-point scale, indicating that they are very satisfied with
their most recent trip to Ocean City. Fifty-three percent classified their most
recent trip as equal to that of past trips and 36 percent classified it as
better than past trips. Malis explained that the results show that Ocean City
is still providing a great experience to its visitors, with the majority still
enjoying their time in Ocean City.

Loyalty to Ocean City was also revealed in the survey,
with 71 percent of people reporting that they expect to take the same number of
trips to Ocean City next year. Thirty-nine percent reported that they would
only consider Ocean City as a vacation destination next year. Seventy-four
percent agreed that Ocean City is a tradition that matters to their family.
Malis pointed out that these were encouraging numbers, which reinforced the
notion that Ocean City is a family resort built on tradition and customer
loyalty.

Despite encouraging results from some areas of the survey,
the issue of cost did not warrant the same positive outcomes. The reported
number one reason for disappointment in the Ocean City experience was high
costs. Malis explained that when rating their experience, participants rated
“great value for the money” as last. In open-ended answers, people indicated
that high costs were the number one reason for going somewhere else.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re too expensive,” Malis
said, pointing out that it may not be Ocean City that has dramatically changed
in price, rather other vacation destinations. Cruises and all-inclusive
vacations have become an increasing competitor, providing discount prices for
their summer off-season. The commission agreed that the value of Ocean City
needed to be reinforced through advertising.

The top areas that visitors found to be disappointing
centered on cost, the traffic problems, the closing down of old favorite
places, and the feeling that town is overbuilt or overcrowded. Although these
results are not encouraging, it is also not surprising, given the often-heard
mumblings of visitors and locals who feel favorite spots, i.e. Trimpers, could
be closing down and turned into yet another condo.

Participants of the survey chose the beach, Boardwalk and
ocean as the best parts of Ocean City, with 47 percent choosing the beach. The
majority also reported that their Ocean City vacation is about relaxation,
family, tradition and getting away.

“These are qualities any brand would want to have,” Malis
said.

Ocean City’s competition is Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks,
Virginia Beach, the Jersey Shore, Disney World, and cruises, according to the
survey. The majority of visitors were reported as being from Maryland and
Pennsylvania, a result that could be skewed based on the people who chose to
fill out the surveys.

The topic of length of stay generated a lot of discussion
among business owners in Ocean City this summer, with people noticing that
vacationers were no longer staying the whole week, rather staying for extended
weekends. The survey results reinforced this theory, showing that 47 percent of
visitors were only staying two to four nights.

“That’s a disturbing trend but an interesting trend,”
Malis said.

Mayor Rick Meehan noted that he didn’t see it as a
reflection of price but rather a reflection of a change in vacation trends.
Meehan noted that the husband and wife work dynamic coupled with an increase in
children’s camp and summer schedules have resulted in a new vacation style. The
commission agreed that it was a factor that needed to be absorbed and targeted.

Malis explained that he would be returning in November
with a full report and more in-depth analysis for the commission to
review.  The review will reveal more
information regarding new visitors versus long-time visitors, an analysis of
group travel size and an analysis of visitor trends by month. Malis also noted
his plans to repeat the online survey in the 2009 season in an effort to track

trends as well as incorporating qualitative studies.

OCEAN CITY – At a Tourism Commission meeting on Wednesday

afternoon, officials were presented with some surprising and some not so
surprising results of a visitor’s survey, completed by over 2,000 Ocean City
vacationers this summer.  

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