More Detailed Tourism Data Eyed

OCEAN CITY – Several suggestions are currently being weighed in the hopes of using other measures than Demoflush as the town’s primary tourism metric.

The Tourism Commission met for the first time in over two years last Friday, and Council Secretary Mary Knight was elected chair with a unanimous vote.

Among those in attendance were representatives from the Mayor and City Council, department heads, the town’s advertising agency, MGH, the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA), the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), the Ocean City Economic Development Committee (EDC) and Greg Shockley of Shenanigans Irish Pub and the Maryland Tourism Development Board.

“We have always used Demoflush, and the good thing with Demoflush is we have something to compare but we need more than that,” Knight said.

Demoflush figures are estimations on the population based on wastewater flow from Ocean City provided by the Ocean City Wastewater Division and calculated by the OC Tourism Department.

“It is frustrating I think for everybody trying to know if you are doing better or worse, or is what we’re doing impacting the results or not,” MGH President Andy Malis of the town’s advertising efforts.

Malis suggested meeting with a company he has worked with in the past. According to Malis, the company is made up of mathematicians who study various data collected by the town, such as Demoflush and Smith Travel Reports, to find a correlation and to not only determine a population estimate but determine how visitation is impacted by certain advertising efforts.

“When I had a conversation with the guy on the phone about it, he asked what I could send him to take a look at, and I said well the only thing I have handy is the Demoflush and the Smith Travel research, so I sent it to him, and within two hours he called me back and said, well there is a direct correlation between … I didn’t understand half of what he was saying but I knew he was already getting somewhere,” Malis said. “I am not saying this is the only thing you can look into … but it might be one of the answers you are looking for to really go beyond all of our intellectual capability to understand how to measure a very complicated metric.”

OCHMRA Executive Director Susan Jones pointed out occupancy rate of hotels and condominiums are a metric that is important to be determined on the town’s part. She reminded the commission that the county has shared their own numbers of room tax numbers that reflected the difference in hotel occupancy and condo occupancy in the past.

“Occupancy rate is hugely important because you talk about room tax increasing and it is fantastic that it goes up but we also have to look at the occupancy,” she said.

Councilman Dennis Dare recalled a visit to the Maryland Comptroller’s Office where a binder stood on a shelf labeled Ocean City.

“He pulls this book out and he starts going through telling us all these numbers,” he said. “I don’t know if they are publically available … the point is they had it broken out into entertainment, restaurants, everything.”

Shockley suggested getting in touch with the Maryland Office of Tourism, which composites tourism data on a state level. Shockley also suggested taking advantage of a nearby resource, Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) founder Dr. Memo Diriker.

The Tourism Commission was in consensus with moving forward in contacting the local and state resources to develop a more reliable tourism metric as well as meeting with the company Malis suggested.

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