As if the calendar was not proof enough, it was evident this week the summer is indeed winding down. Although there are still vacationers here, the volume is simply down significantly from the week prior.
It’s troubling to me to see the peak season has essentially shrunk to six weeks. Many business owners I speak with share the concern, reporting a huge spike in revenue for six weeks, from before the Fourth of July to the second week in August, but then a consistent flattening period now. This short window places a tremendous amount of stress on operators and makes every single day in that 45-day window critical.
Along with the shortening season, there are two primary concerns I hear most often when talking with business people. It’s worth a reminder that these are general conclusions because size, trade and focus varies opinions among local businesses.
One involves June and how it’s become a headache for so many. June has always been a tricky month in Ocean City, largely due to the influx of Senior Week celebrants. Additionally, it’s become a “pre-season” of sorts. There is a lot of staff training that must take place in advance of the real season kicking off around the Independence Day holiday. Despite new special events being added to the calendar in recent years, such as the OC Air Show, June is by far the slowest month of the summer and for many September is significantly better. Along with the Senior Weekers, the main issue is schools are simply getting out later and later, meaning the week days are routinely quiet.
That brings up the second major point being heard this summer, and it’s not a new one. The mid-week doldrums continue to plague Ocean City, and it’s a battle that demands marketing dollars. Many Ocean City hotels are already offering bargain weekday deals and have been for some time with varying levels of success. They team hotel room bargains with free meals, discounted amusements and even offer free night’s stays for a certain commitment. Fifteen years ago, summer deals were nonexistent for the most part.
Ocean City cannot become a weekend resort, and the fact is that’s been the trend in recent years, particularly outside of the 45-day peak season. Restaurants and their employees don’t want two-hour waits on Saturday nights because there’s only so many dinners they can serve based on capacity. The business needs to be steady throughout the week to achieve long-term success and to sustain quality employees.
One restaurateur I spoke with this week summed it well, reporting last Friday and Saturday nights his establishment was on a wait from 5:30-9 p.m. During the week, however, the restaurant was never on a wait and staffing had to be cut early because it was not busy enough. This led to at least three employees cutting their summer short and returning home for a few days prior to college starting.
All of these circumstances in Ocean City are not easy to address with immediate success, but history shows us one way to do it is with special events. That’s why the three significant events currently taking place are perfectly timed and a sign the city’s tourism folks are aware of the issues. While they each have different appeals, the common theme is they each are looking to keep the last two weeks of August a major part of the summer season.
Ocean City Hotel Week began on Sunday, Aug. 17 and runs through Aug. 28. The promotion features free night stays with certain commitments and a huge amount of value-added deals. It’s obviously a result of what the industry has recognized — the last two weeks of August have become too quiet.
The new OC SandFest is a two-week event geared toward keeping families coming to Ocean City and while here providing them with free entertainment through competitions and games. It takes place along the Boardwalk and it will be interesting to watch the event grow over the years.
Finally, there is the biggest economic impact of the three this weekend — the Ocean City Jeep Week event. Over the last five years, this event has grown into a major event for Ocean City and the surrounding areas. With Live Wire Media, a new West Ocean City-based firm spearheaded by the promotional expertise of Brad Hoffman, it’s expected Jeep Week will soon be one of the year’s largest and most anticipated special events in Ocean City.
In other news, there is an early contender for top billing in our stupidest crimes of the year feature at the end of the year. Certain crimes can only occur in the summer months around here and you can’t make this stuff up.
While on a uniformed bus detail, an Ocean City police officer observed a man jump from the sidewalk into the middle of the bus lane less than half of a block in front of the oncoming bus. The man was apparently in the mood to pull his shorts down to his ankles and expose himself to the occupants of the bus. His buttocks and genitals were illuminated by the headlights of the bus, which contained roughly 40 passengers at the time
The officers exited the bus and placed him under arrest for indecent exposure, disorderly conduct and hindering free passage. When asked why he did it, the man said he “just wanted to make his girlfriend laugh,” according to police reports. Whether he did that or not I don’t know, but it gave our newsroom a chuckle.