OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s tourism department and its partners are looking for ideas on Ocean City’s marketing campaign for next summer.
This week the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association held its season-wrap up meeting with its members and Ocean City’s advertising firm, MGH.
OCHMRA Executive Director Susan Jones said this summer the trends confirmed visitors are booking short-term stays and are continuing to look for the value and deals.
“They want the best thing they can find and they are continuing to shop online … there is an increase in people doing research and bookings on mobile devices,” Jones said.
Tourism Director Donna Abbott said the town is looking for next summer’s big advertising campaign as last summer’s campaign, “Summer of Thanks”, has come to a close.
“We haven’t planned our strategy yet for next year. We want your feedback, we want to hear from you because we feel that we want everybody to be a part of this,” Abbott said. “We have a great agency, of course, but we rely on your feedback as well. You guys are out there on the front lines and you can give us some feedback on how we can approach strategy’s moving forward.”
MGH President Andy Malis detailed the “Summer of Thanks” campaign in a presentation.
The concept was forwarded from the Mayor and City Council to MGH to come up with ways to thank summer visitors as a way to retain them by providing deals around town as well as opportunities to enter into a sweepstakes.
“I think it was the right message at the right time,” Malis said. “Even though the economy was picking up for some people, they appreciated the fact that we were thanking them. It goes without saying that you should be thanking your customers, but you don’t really see other tourist destinations breaking that message out to the community so I think it really worked.”
Malis went on to report, in the last three summers room tax has increased 18.85 percent, from May through August. The visitation rate to the town’s website, OCocean.com, is also up 84 percent over the last three summers.
“So pretty steady, pretty good increase, coming off of a recession in ‘08 and ‘09, with a really good bounce back and continued improvement,” he said.
MGH just finished up a study on OCocean’s accommodation page. The objective of the study was to see how the page can better serve users and to discover whether a reservation system would benefit visitors to the site. An online survey was conducted with visitors to the website from July through September. Data is being evaluated and will be presented to the Department of Tourism.
Malis furthered the town’s mobile app is continuing to be well received and downloaded. The iOS, or iPhone, app has reached over 90,000 downloads and the Android, which was released at a later date, is close to 37,000 downloads.
“This was designed for when people are in town to look for restaurants to go to, bars and activities … so we think it has been a great addition to our marketing tools,” he said.
A “Summer of Thanks” contest on the mobile app tracked the number of check-ins to different establishments throughout ocean city. There were 1,972 check-ins to local businesses. Out of that number, three people were chosen to receive a free vacation package to Ocean City.
Looking at year-round events, Thanksgiving weekend at Winterfest last year was up 4.5 percent from 2010; golf rounds during Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 were up 4.1 percent from FY 2010; and Sunfest attendance was up 12.5 percent, or 30,000 attendees from 2011.
This year’s new campaign, “Ride the B”, was implemented to increase ridership on the bus system and encourage riders to purchase the $3 ride-all-day fare. Bus revenue increased by 13.5 percent May through August from last season.
MGH Account Manager Alison Fiorelli highlighted Ocean City’s media buys this past season.
There were 13 weeks of TV/Cable buys on air this summer in Baltimore, D.C, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Lancaster and York (HLLY), Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. There was over $468,000 secured in added value through sponsorships and promotions.
The radio buys ran around 3,000 spots for two weeks in the same areas promoting “Summer of Thanks” and Hotel Week, and $53,580 was secured in added value.
For the outdoor buys, 79 billboards were displayed on high commuter roadways in the above referenced areas. The billboards exhibited Rodney the Lifeguard sending out the message that “summer is on sale in Ocean City, Md.”
Within interactive media buys, there were over 21 million total impressions and 47,000 clicks on web banners as well as over 14 million total impressions and over 94,000 clicks on mobile banners.
There were more than 2.7 million impressions that drove over 58,000 visits to OCocean.com. The top markets were Baltimore, Philadelphia and HLLY and the top key words in searches that led to the town’s website were “free movies”, “Ocean City Maryland” and “Ocean City Rentals.”
This year Ocean City began a partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. An “Ocean City Night” was held at Camden Yards when the Orioles played the Washington Nationals with a sold-out crowd of over 45,000 people. There was an Ocean City booth set up and Rodney the Lifeguard was on the scene to interact with the crowd.
“It generated a lot of interest, people were crowding the booth the entire time leading up to the game and they were really excited about taking pictures with Rodney,” Fiorelli said.
The Dew Tour was held in Ocean City Aug. 16-19. There were 93,000 attendees, breaking the Dew Tour’s attendance record for the second year in a row. One billion media impressions were made including ESPN.com and USA Today, plus coverage in all major Baltimore TV and print outlets. There were about 1.5 million viewers of the event on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend, and more than 10.8 million Facebook impressions the week of the event.
MGH Account Executive Shannon Keys highlighted some of Ocean City’s special events promotions.
For Springfest and Sunfest, there were around 880 TV/Cable spots in Baltimore, D.C and Salibsury. There were around 500 local radio spots, including stations out of Baltimore. Plus media buys in print, interactive media, local outdoor billboards and social media.
In addition to the town’s signature events, marketing plans were executed for the following events and promotions; Art’s Alive, 4th of July, Sundaes in the Park, Concerts on the Beach, Beach Fireworks, Beach Lights, Sunset Park Party Nights, White marlin open, Hotel Week, Restaurant Week, Silver Sizzles Revue, Winterfest and Shoppers Fair.
According to Fiorelli, Ocean City is up to 475,000 fans and followers on all social networks, such as Facebook, YouTube, twitter, flickr, and tumblr. Facebook makes up over 455,000 of those fans and remains to have the largest follower base out of all of the resort’s competitors.
“Summer of Thanks went really well last year and now we have to figure out the new big thing for next year,” Jones said.
Feedback received so far from OCHMRA members shows there is a shortage of visitors during the middle of the week and it was suggested a marketing campaign should focus on that time period.