OCEAN CITY – Ocean City received high honors last week at the Maryland Governor’s Tourism Industry Conference, with the receipt of two awards for Ocean City tourism efforts.
Deborah Travers, Assistant Executive Director of Tourism in Ocean City, and the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant-Association (OCHMRA) both received distinguished awards this year.
This year marked the 27th annual Tourism Industry Conference in Maryland and was held in Solomon’s Island. The annual conference, aimed at uniting Maryland’s tourism industry and leaders, began 27 years ago with Kurt Alverson, former Maryland State Director, who began the conference in an effort to bring the tourism industry together. Over the years, the conference has grown from 75 guests the first year to over 350 tourism professionals in attendance this year. The tourism budget has also evolved since then, growing from $1 million to $11.5 million.
The Maryland Tourism Council in conjunction with the Maryland Office of Tourism hosts the conference each year.
The Maryland Tourism Professional of the Year Award was bestowed upon one of Ocean City’s own this year with Travers taking home the esteemed award.
The criteria for the award requires that the recipient work in a tourism-related company that is a member of the Maryland Tourism Council. The recipient must also have worked in a new position or capacity in the tourism industry for no more than three years and must be an active participant in industry-related activities.
"This award is given to a newcomer to Maryland Tourism whose spirit and commitment exemplify the ideal of our profession," conference literature said.
Travers joined the Tourism Department in 2005. Prior to that, Travers was the executive director of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce.
"We are proud of Deb’s accomplishment and recognition by the state tourism industry. This is quite an honor and we congratulate Deb," said Mike Noah, Director of Tourism.
Travers came before the Mayor and Council Monday night to present her plaque.
"Behind this award is a lot of teamwork and a lot of support," Travers said, thanking the numerous departments and town employees that make her work possible.
Travers also expressed her utter surprise at receiving the award, explaining that the winner is kept a secret until announced at the banquet.
Susan Jones, executive director of the OCHMRA, was also present at the conference. Jones was the recipient of the Tourism Advocate Award on behalf of the OCHMRA for its work with the "Save Trimper’s" website.
Each year, the Tourism Advocate Award is given to an individual or organization that has led legislative initiatives that has heightened the awareness of the impact of the tourism economy. The award recipient is chosen by a panel of judges that is made up of previous recipients of the Maryland Tourism Person of the Year Award.
The OCHMRA was this year’s award winner due to the creation of the "Save Trimper’s" website, www.savetrimpers.com. The website was created by the OCHMRA and D3Corp with the approval of the Trimper family, as a grassroots effort to save the historical family amusement park.
The historical and long-time favorite Ocean City attraction caused an up swell of support early this year when the Trimper family announced that they may be forced to close their doors for good due to the drastic increase in property assessments. In an effort to play an active role in the issue, the OCHMRA launched the website, which offers facts about the 100-year-old amusement park, an opportunity for people to share their memories and stories, and a link allowing people to contact various government officials to their voice opinions.
"The lure of Trimper’s … the smells, sights, and sounds…is what brings my family and I back to Ocean City each summer. Trimper’s is the highlight of a trip to the beach. We need to find a way to keep this gem intact," read one of the comments on the website.
The website caught on quickly, with nearly 200 stories posted in just the first two days.
"We’re competing with the government. I wish my problem was competing with Jolly Roger… we’re not going out of business because of another amusement park," read a comment posted from Doug Trimper on the website.
The effective effort undertaken by the OCHMRA to promote a historical tourism landmark made the OCHMRA a clear choice for this year’s Tourism Advocate Award.
"I’m really proud of this considering ‘advocacy’ is part of our mission statement," Jones said.
The OCHMRA’s mission statement reads, "The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association is an advocate of the Ocean City Hospitality Industry, and is a Tourism activist. A private, non-profit organization, OCHMRA is dedicated to building Ocean City’s economy and positive image through tourism and destination marketing."