Council Giving Tourism Board Mixed Signals
Frustration was running through sectors of the Ocean City tourism industry this week, thanks in large part to the division among the Mayor and Council.
In the fall, the council as well as all aspects of the tourism industry in Ocean City was told by an objective consultant the current system is not working.
“There is a remarkable lack of trust here … between the industry, the tourism marketing, and the city government,” OCG President Joe Lathrop told the Mayor and Council in September. “It’s remarkable how polarized things are.” He added, “There is no leader here in this tourism industry. It’s hard for any organization to function like a business when it is being influenced by so many people.”
After explaining all the problems, Lathrop presented three options -- privatization by removing tourism from the government, the creation of a non-profit organization to handle all things tourism and a massive internal realignment of current departments and officials.
Clearly, the only feasible option of the three for Ocean City is the internal realignment where the private sector tourism industry and the city departments involved with tourism have a clear understanding of what each other does and the responsibilities and goals of each.
That’s not at all happening today, and changes are needed. The consultant, a respected voice in the tourism world, confirmed that, but there seems to be a reluctance somewhere along the way to implement changes.
The Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), created after the council majority dissolved all city subcommittees including the Tourism Commission, has come before the council twice in the last few months to present proposals for the internal realignment, only to hear concerns expressed on whether it’s the right option in the first place and confusing requests for information on other options.
These ongoing issues must be resolved immediately before they continue to fester and result in insurmountable problems.
During the next meeting these issues are discussed, the council, specifically those who are troubled by what’s being proposed, needs to detail exactly what’s on their minds. Is internal realignment what the council wants? Perhaps an official vote needs to be held to cement the direction.
Otherwise, TAB is wasting its time proceeding with presenting internal realignment options, and frustrations over that are understandable.
To this point, the only thing to show for hours of work on TAB’s behalf is a confirmation of the “remarkable lack of trust” that Lathrop pointed out four months ago.
Some clear discussions that stay on point would be helpful, rather than these wandering talks that exasperate some of the worker bees who are presenting the council with what they see as a reasonable course.