Wednesday, August 13 – OC’s Online Room Reservations Up

OCEAN CITY – The Tourism Commission painted a rosier picture regarding hotel reservations last week, concluding that while this summer season is far from being a banner year, tourism is maintaining a status quo.

“System-wide, reservations are up, length of stay is down,” said John Gehrig, president of D3 Corp, reporting on the town’s central online reservation system.

Ocean City’s online hotel reservation center, controlled by D3 Corp, is just one option for online hotel bookings. The Department of Tourism also provides an option for online bookings, through Individual properties also provide options for securing online reservations, however those numbers were not reported at Thursday’s tourism meeting.

Gehrig reported that system-wide, online bookings are roughly flat within the resort, not including reservations made through individual hotels. Through the end of July, online reservations were up roughly 600, while room night totals are down 2 percent, roughly 1,500.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re using my system or not – online reservations are up,” said Gehrig.

Gehrig went on to explain that having multiple outlets for online reservations and promotions actually benefits the town, rather than only providing one online option, as vacationers like to feel as if they have shopped around.

“People are booking online, that’s the point. We need to convert our Internet traffic,” said Gehrig.

The commission agreed that maximizing on the town’s online tools would be beneficial, as the majority of vacationers turn to the Internet now to book rooms, search for deals and research destinations.

The town’s website also saw an increase in traffic, with July traffic up 17 percent.

“The advertising worked,” said City Manager Dennis Dare.

While online reservation numbers may be up slightly, and while some feel Ocean City is faring well in the face of a dismal economic outlook and rising gas prices, shorter vacations and discounts remain top priority for vacationers.

“Based on the numbers, on a month-to-month basis, we’re trying to get hotels to discount earlier, as opposed to discounting in the end,” said Gehrig, noting the overwhelming trend this year for discount shopping online. “People are looking for that perceived value, I think that’s the trend because of the economy.”

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant-Association Executive Director Susan Jones highlighted the marketing success of the ‘One-Week Wonder’ promotion, noting a high amount of web hits, but conceding that shorter lengths of stay remain the trend.

“There are a lot of people looking for a shorter vacation,” agreed Dr. Lenny Berger.

For all the week’s news, see The Dispatch on Friday morning.