Ocean City’s Joe Kro-Art is an idealist who knows how to stir up some publicity. Confirmation lies in the free gasoline promotion he cooked up over the winter and that is now making headlines regionally and nationally.
It’s no secret gasoline prices are bothering people of all walks of life, and the promise of free fuel is surely alluring, but this proposed promotion and the subsequent publicity it has caused could potentially backfire on Ocean City in the form of putting undue pressure on the tourism industry to live up to these proposals.
Even before Kro-Art went public with this proposal, many hotels for years have been enticing visitors to the resort by offering gas cards for certain lengths of stay. That’s smart business and we believe the way this issue should continue to be tackled.
We believe Ocean City should address the skyrocketing gas expenses with an aggressive approach, but it should be handled by the individual businesses and addressed how they wish. In other words, let it be a private sector issue rather than government getting in the mix.
A link on the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association website specifically addresses fuel concerns with a link called “Gas Cards & Deals.”
For instance, the Grand Hotel is currently offering a $25 gas card if you stay three or four nights and a $50 gas card if you stay five or more nights. The Hotel Monte Carlo will give a $40 gas card for a four-night stay. The Clarion is offering a $50 gas card for a three-night stay. Many other hotels have similar offerings on the table, all aimed at covering — or at least partially — the fuel expense of traveling to Ocean City.
Gas promotions have been offered in Ocean City for years by the individual businesses. It’s not a new approach. It’s all about competition and capitalism and is spurred by an effort to differentiate one business from another in a crowded market. It’s smart business.
Kro-Art’s idea seems to be rooted in a similar marketing concept — offer free gas to grab headlines, set Ocean City apart from its competitors and the people will come. It’s not a bad concept and Kro-Art is to be credited with thinking outside the box. That never hurts, but we believe this is something best handled by the private sector. The same goes with the ongoing need to stress value in marketing materials.
The idea of Ocean City marketing gasoline with a sizeable chunk of its current ad budget is not smart at this time. Perhaps it’s something to consider in the future, but Ocean City’s marketing plan is approved and ready to go and seems to be working, based on last summer.
Sure, not too many operators were thrilled with how the season went last year, but it’s a fact compared to other resort destinations Ocean City fared better and surely the current marketing plan played a significant role in that.
Taking a third of the ad budget and devoting it to one concept would be excessive at this point. We should continue to leave it up to the individual businesses to decide how far they want to go with gas discounts and promotions. It’s a private sector issue.