City Decides To Give Tourist Guide Another Year

OCEAN CITY – You will be able to “Sea For Yourself”, at least for one more year.

After a debate about the future of the long running “Sea For Yourself Visitors Guide”, the City Council decided to run it for one more year at least, awarding a bid for design and printing for the 2009 publication during Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

“It’s too late to put the two publications [the other being the Chamber of Commerce Guide] together for 2009, but we could look to combine the two in fiscal year 2010,” said City Manager Dennis Dare.

The “Sea For Yourself” guide will be a bit smaller this year, as it was decided to scale down the glossy page count from 112 to 88 and 75,000 fewer copies will be printed this year.

According to a memorandum sent from Debbie Travers, assistant director of the Tourism Department, to Dare, the project was awarded in two parts, one bid for publishing and the other for design.

Fry Communications Inc. of Mechanicsburg, Pa. was granted the project after its apparent low bid of $83,283 for 175,000 copies. Lynch Printing of Ocean City was awarded the graphic design part of the job for $9,680.

The council voted 4-2, in Councilman Lloyd Martin’s absence, to award the bid to the two companies with Council members Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas in opposition.

“I think the time is now to not do that publication,” said Joe Hall, whose family owns an Ocean City restaurant. “It is a duplication of service that I think the private sector can provide. I think we should provide the savings to taxpayers and to businesses by doing away with this guide.”

The combined cost of $92,963 is under the $150,000 production budget for the guide and the projected $110,000 that the guide generates in advertising revenue. Reportedly, the guide generates $32,000 in revenue to the town, according to Travers’ Nov. 13 memo.

Over the past several years, there have been talks about combining the two current publications into one “official” tourism guide for the town in hopes to “maintain consistency and accuracy in the information read.”

Travers, former executive director of the chamber, said in her memo that the chamber’s guide is a “direct and significant revenue source for them” but went on to say that “[the tourism department] provides most of the editorial, calendar of events and other relevant content to them as we are working on our guide.”

Todd Ferrante, who is the president of the Chamber of Commerce, apparently gave his blessing to Mayor Rick Meehan about proceeding with this year’s Sea For Yourself Guide, although it’s no secret the chamber would like at some point to see the publications merged.

“I just spoke to Todd a little while ago, and he says that we should go ahead with the guide for this year,” said the mayor. “I don’t think that not doing this publication would be a quick fix for anyone.”

A quarter of a million copies of the town’s guide were distributed last year. It provides extensive listings of amusements, accommodations, things to do, dining, convention center events and general information on the town of Ocean City.

In comparison, the Ocean City Guide, distributed by the Chamber of Commerce, distributed approximately 225,000 copies last year, according to Chamber Executive Director Melanie Pursel.

“I foresee the publication committee maybe deciding to appoint someone to make sure that both publications work together to convey the same message to promote the town, if these two guides get put into one,” said Pursel. “Our job is to promote the businesses of the town, and the town’s job is to promote tourism and the town as a destination, so we should be able to find away to work together and do that.”