Trio Of Weekends Launch Ocean City’s Season

OCEAN CITY — Memorial
Day used to be the official kickoff to the summer season in Ocean City, but
this year, it’s just one of three busy weekends scheduled in succession to help
blast the resort into the summer of 2010.

Local businesses are
hoping that three is the magic number this year as a trifecta of events (last
week’s gigantic Cruisin’ weekend, the present Memorial Day weekend and next
week’s 3rd Annual OC Air Show) will help get the summer off and
running in the right direction after enduring a lackluster 2009 season and a
dismal off-season in Ocean City.

“It’s definitely the
shot in the arm that the local business community needs right now,” said Buxy’s
Salty Dog owner Doug Buxbaum. “After the winter and the early spring, it’s such
a blessing to have three big weekends right in a row to start the season.
Cruisin’ was unbelievable last weekend, and couple that with the next two
weekends, that could propel the business community right through June and into
July.”

Historically, the resort
swells to capacity in the last two weeks of May, but then tapers off throughout
the month of June, with the largest contingent of visitors seemingly being the
graduating seniors, or “june bugs” as they are commonly known.

Mayor Rick Meehan said
that the town has made a concerted effort to build the so-called shoulder
seasons and the month of June and has done so with special events like Cruisin’
and the Air Show.

“These three powerful
weekends right in a row are going to hopefully help our business community
build momentum and have a great summer season,” said Meehan. “Special events
are crucial in helping us build things that draw folks to Ocean City that
aren’t so reliant on the weather. It does appear that weather is going to be
our friend this weekend, and I think we are shaping up to have a fantastic
weekend, and I’m confident it’s going to be a great summer.”

Statistically speaking,
AAA Mid-Atlantic projects the number of travelers in the state of Maryland will
rise about 6 percent from last year, even though gas prices are 17 percent
higher from 2009’s Memorial Day weekend.

“Marylanders may feel
more confident to take a holiday trip this year, which they may have postponed
last year, due to their personal economic situation,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic
Manager of Public and Government Affairs Ragina Averella. “We view the increase
as a result of possible increased consumer confidence, as well as pent-up
demand to get away this year.”

AAA also projects that
median spending will be in the $800 range for the holiday weekend.

Local hoteliers say that
advanced bookings, which were drastically down last year, are looking to be on
the proverbial up and up.

“We had a great month of
May and that’s a great sign leading up to the summer season,” said Grand Hotel
General Manager Patrick Staib. “Of course, our success is always weather based,
but our advance bookings for this weekend are already at 80 percent. I think
having the trifecta of events is something the town should consider doing every
year.”

Last weekend’s Cruisin’
event brought in an estimated 170,000 people to the resort, and a strong month
of May has pushed projected room tax numbers above last year’s pace, according
to Meehan.

“If you think about it,
when Cruisin’ started 20 years ago, there were 148 cars that were registered,
now there are probably close to 3,500 registered cars and another couple of
thousand cars who are just down for the weekend,” said Meehan. “It’s turned
into the new start of the summer season, but more importantly, it’s one of
those events that gets people booking hotel rooms in advance.”

Ocean City
Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones said
that getting people to stay overnight in Ocean City, and hopefully, for longer
than what they did last summer is the key to driving the local economy.

“Cruisin’ was certainly
a great kick-off to the season, Memorial Day is typically weather dependent,
and the

Air Show weekend will be
totally packed as there are numerous events that weekend. (ie, OC Car Show,
soccer tournaments and the Ravens Roost parade),” said Jones. “It is important
to create events which will bring people to stay overnight. This generates room
revenue for the lodging operators, food revenue for restaurateurs and tax
revenue for the local and state governments.”

Experts are projecting
once again that Ocean City’s geographic location coupled with their promotional
efforts (earmarking more than the entire state does in advertising spending)
could help the resort fare well this season, despite the fact that unemployment
is still in double-digit numbers, the economy has not fully recovered and
per-gallon gas prices are nearing $3.

Yet, after last
weekend’s stellar turnout and a similar draw expected for Memorial Day, next
weekend’s Air Show is where a lot of businesses are setting their sights on as
a huge economic boost to start the season.

“We are excited about
the Air Show’s success last year and the town has done a great job in creating
a compelling and exciting event for all ages in early June,” said Fager’s
Island General Manager Kevin Myers. “Weather is, of course, key but I think the
timing of the Air Show on the weekend after the big holiday is a great move
that will help our business and get a mix of people thinking about and coming
to Ocean City.

Buxbaum agrees that the
town’s efforts in building up the month of June is making a lot of local
business numbers move from cautious optimism concerning the summer season, to
simply optimism.

“This should give
everyone the punch they need to get through June, and to also get their staff’s
acclimated to what ‘busy’ is in the summer in Ocean City,” said Buxbaum. “The
traffic last weekend was like 4th of July weekend, and if that’s any
indication about what might be on the horizon this summer, I say bring it on.”

 

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