More Tourism Survey Results Presented To Commission

OCEAN CITY – Further results of a visitor survey were presented to the Tourism Commission this week, giving them a more in-depth look at what visitors prefer and do not enjoy about Ocean City.

In October, MGH Advertising presented the Tourism Commission with the results of over 2,000 surveys. The results revealed some surprising and some not so surprising details, presenting the Tourism Commission a better idea of where additional tourism funding should be directed.

At the October meeting, the Tourism Commission was informed that visitors are loyal and are enjoying their Ocean City experience, but that the majority is disappointed with the high costs. It was also revealed that the beach and the Boardwalk are the biggest OC attractions.

MGH returned this week to give further analysis of the survey results and to present answers to follow-up questions that were sent out in an effort to garner further information.

According to the results, the primary demographic of visitors are middle-aged couples with children. Thirty percent of visitors are between the ages of 45 to 54. Eighty percent of those between the ages of 45 and 54 are married, 46 percent travel with kids, and 54 percent have a household income of $50,000 to $100,000. Twenty-nine percent of visitors are between 35 and 44.

The secondary demographic is made up of young couples and empty nesters. Seventeen percent of visitors are between the ages of 25 and 34 and 14 percent are between the ages of 55 and 64. A large chunk of these visitors also travel with children.

The initial survey results revealed that most people traveling to Ocean City are enjoying their vacation. It was revealed that 70 percent were very satisfied with their recent trip to Ocean City. In an open-ended follow-up question, participants were asked what they would change about their trip to Ocean City. Fourteen percent reported that they would not change anything and 27 percent revealed that they would have stayed longer.

MGH reported that there are three types of trips to Ocean City – young couple vacations, family trips and extended family trips. The groups differ in their experiences in Ocean City, with the young couples staying in hotels and motels, staying two to four nights and frequenting restaurants and bars. The family vacationers generally stay in condos and frequent family attractions.

The initial survey results revealed that the beach and the Boardwalk are top attractions for visitors. Follow-up questions disclosed similar results, with the majority of people noting their beach and Boardwalk experiences as their favorite Ocean City memories. It was also revealed that relaxation and family time are important parts of the Ocean City experience.

Although the follow-up results revealed additional information about the positive aspects of the Ocean City experience, negative aspects were highlighted as well. The survey revealed that Ocean City is not, in the eyes of the participants, cost efficient. Seventy-three percent of participants noted cost as the main reason why they aren’t staying in Ocean City longer.

“It cost more to go to Ocean City than to fly to a Caribbean island,” wrote one participant in a follow-up question.

Unexpected, Ocean City planned events, noise and overcrowding and teen/young adult partying were all noted as disruptions to visitors’ ideal vacations in Ocean City.

Traffic issues inevitably made their way into the complaint portion of the survey, but follow-up questions revealed that it was the traffic coming into Ocean City that was causing the most headaches. Seventy-five percent of participants reported that traffic in the municipal limits of Ocean City did not bother them at all. It was no surprise, however, that parking remained an annoyance to the majority of visitors, particularly in the downtown area. Bus transportation also received low marks, with participants complaining that it was difficult to get a bus and that buses were often too full.

One of the more revealing points of the survey results was that visitors feel that Ocean City has a lot to offer, but that the majority of visitors are traditionalist, with 93 percent reporting that they rely on past experiences to guide their trip to Ocean City. The number one reason why visitors look for a new place to vacation is a desire for change and new things to do.

“Marketing really isn’t about protecting the base … there’s always going to be people we lose,” said Andy Malis of MGH, explaining that the advertising agency’s focus needs to be on looking at areas to build on.

One area that the Tourism Commission and MGH hope to build on is helping visitors plan their trip to Ocean City. The surveys revealed that most people are experiencing the same vacation in Ocean City year after year, despite the different options that are available to them.

MGH suggested launching an online planning tool, which would aid visitors in selecting activities, restaurants, and places to stay while in Ocean City, essentially giving visitors an easy tool to help them enhance their Ocean City experience.

With the influx of alternative vacation options over the years and the rapid increase in competitive advertising, the Tourism Commission agreed it is imperative that Ocean City no longer rest on its laurels and assume people are going to travel to Ocean City. The commission agreed a more active effort needed to be made to educate visitors on all that Ocean City has to offer.