OCEAN CITY – Finding a way of saying thanks to Ocean City visitors has been in the works all summer long, from free gas to other giveaways, but this week a concept was presented that all tourism members seemed to support.
Tourism Director Deb Turk started the presentation off by explaining the concept is a way of taking Ocean City’s desire to say thanks message to the next level. The town’s tourism department, Tourism Advisory Board, and advertising firm, MGH, have all worked together in providing input in creating the concept. She added that the campaign will need the local business community’s support in order to survive.
“We want to make sure we are inclusive and that it is easy for the business community to participate,” she said.
MGH President Andy Malis presented the “Summer of Thanks”, which hopes to take hold by the summer of 2012. He explained that the promotion would thank summer visitors but most importantly retain them by providing deals from around town as well as opportunities to enter into a sweepstakes.
Details include having the campaign’s logo posted throughout Ocean City, including buses and employee T-shirts. Also, a billboard is planned as visitors exit town.
“Hopefully the last thing you see is ‘Thanks for Visiting’, and where to find great deals for your next trip to continue this momentum from year to year with the summer of thanks,” Mails said as he explained the billboard concept.
Visitors would be directed toward the town’s website, ococean.com, where they would find the “Summer of Thanks” special deals and freebies.
Malis was nervous to spill the details on the possible sweepstakes but felt the discussion had to start somewhere.
“I think this is really neat and I don’t know of any other town that has ever done this,” he said. “I think we are ahead of the crowd here.”
The contest is to take advantage of the latest and greatest technology provided by smart phones Facebook and Foursquare check-ins. By downloading or updating ococean’s application onto a smartphone, Droid or iPhone, a user will be provided the opportunity to check-in.
A check-in list will locate the closest businesses to a person’s proximity enabling them to view the closest deals. By checking into a local business, that person will automatically be entered into the sweepstakes. They are not limited to one check-in but as many as they like.
“People could drive up and down Ocean City on their vacation and check in and they will get another entry into the contest,” Malis said. “We can either have one big grand price of a fully paid vacation or we could have weekly prizes.”
Other ideas presented were post cards and emails sent on a regular basis promoting the “Summer of Thanks” special deals. The town could also provide a tool kit to participating businesses providing logos, T-shirts, posters and counter cards.
Malis also suggested getting together a new group of Ocean City ambassadors or volunteers to attend special events or just walk the beach thanking visitors and handing out freebies.
“There are a lot of ideas and we need to work with the town and the business community to figure it out but we think it is an exciting idea,” Malis said. “We need some help. Think of some different ways we could have the summer of thanks emblazoned around town.”
Councilman Joe Hall agreed providing a smaller prize to contest winners is the right idea so more people have a chance to win and become engaged. He also suggested sending deals to visitors once they have left encouraging them to return.
“When it comes to retaining customers, I don’t think you can say thank you enough,” said Councilman Brent Ashley, encouraging the concept to move forward. “These ideas are really terrific and I hope we can follow through with them and have a successful campaign with this.”
Mayor Rick Meehan suggested for tourism members to work with local businesses in developing their own deals.
“Everybody is busy and they’re concentrating on a lot of different things,” he said. “Have some of that developed, create some ideas for some of our businesses, and make what they’re offering and how they are offering it a little bit better.”