OCEAN CITY – An enhanced Convention and Visitors Bureau membership is in the works to offer expanded business profiles on the town’s official website, although concerns were aired over the new system favoring some businesses over others.
During June’s Tourism Commission meeting, member Tourism Todd Ferrante, owner of Park Place Jewelers, brought to the commission’s attention the opportunity to enhance the town’s official website, OCocean.com, by expanding Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) member listings.
According to OCocean, every year eight million people visit Ocean City, and in 2012 OCocean received over 6.5 million page views by 1.4 million unique visitors. CVB members and their business are posted on the website and receive exposure on OCocean for the price of $200 a year.
Currently, CVB members are either listed under the Dining and Nightlife tab or on the Things to Do tab on the website. Each business is allowed a small image and basic information, such as address, phone number, website link and a small description.
MGH, Ocean City’s advertising agency, attended the Tourism Commission meeting on Monday afternoon and proposed a tiered membership platform.
Allison Fiorelli of MGH explained new in 2013 CVB members will be offered a photo gallery and additional description space of amenities as well as an enhanced “deals” tab.
Fiorelli presented a four-tiered business listing option. Tier 1 will be the basic listing that is more simplified then the current listing setting. However, Tier 1 members will be placed at the bottom of the list below the higher tier members.
“We wanted to offer this because some of the smaller businesses that have hesitated to become a CVB member we are hoping a more simplified listing will encourage additional members and be offered at a reasonable rate,” she said.
Tier 2 includes the current options for CVB members, plus a click through button that would send the viewer to an expanded page with additional pictures and overview of the business.
Tier 3 would receive all that Tier 2 does but will be highlighted among the list, including a star will be on the listing to mark the business as a featured member.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 will be randomly rotated throughout the list of all members, but Tier 4 members will always be placed at the top of the list while receiving all that is offered to Tier 3 members.
“This would be a premium listing that would be something that members would have the option to purchase one week at a time so that they would have a fixed placement at the top of the list, and an additional banner ad placement on certain sections of the site,” Fiorelli said.
Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out the proposed tiered membership is similar to what many websites offer.
“You pay for placement or you pay to be part of a certain package so that your listing is highlighted and stands out from everybody else,” the mayor said.
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones was concerned larger businesses would constantly be placed at the top of the list above the “mom and pop” businesses.
“The more expensive properties are going to be listed at the top and we are already dealing with a perception of being overpriced,” Jones said.
Tourism Commission Chair/Councilwoman Mary Knight felt viewers seeking a more reasonable rate will dig deeper.
“I think there are folks out there that will delve down, especially that family of six that is looking for something that meets their needs as well as their pocket book,” she said.
The commission was in consensus to have MGH create a generic survey over the proposed tiered membership to poll CVB members before moving ahead.