OCEAN CITY – If legislators in Annapolis continue to cut Maryland’s tourism advertising budget at the current rate, it won’t be long until Ocean City spends about the same as the entire state.
Assistant Tourism Director Debbie Travers told the tourism commission last week that the state of Maryland had cut their advertising budget to promote tourism to $4.9 million, leaving those in attendance shaking their heads in wonderment.
“They just don’t get it,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “It’s one thing to cut expenses because that is important, but you shouldn’t cut something that brings in revenue, you should secure it, and invest in it so it enhances your revenue stream.”
The state’s advertising budget had ballooned as high as $7 million in recent years, but as the economy started its decline, so did the budget.
As a result, the state of Maryland has done away with all television and radio advertising campaigns and will run print advertising in just a handful of publications including O Magazine, Women’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, and Coastal Living.
Councilwoman Mary Knight, commission chair, said that she stumbled upon the state’s print advertisement in Better Homes and Gardens and gave it an average at best review.
“I think the best way to describe it is ‘milk-toast’”, said Knight, “I didn’t even realize what it was advertising until I saw Maryland, but I wasn’t impressed at all, and I love stuff like this.”
Despite the news that the state will take a significant backwards step after baby-stepping their way to $7 million in previous years, Travers said that the town of Ocean City shouldn’t be adversely affected by the cut in Annapolis.
“It would be a whole different story if we didn’t have the funding that we have right now, or the formula to continue to grow that funding,” said Travers. “We are fortunate to have enough funding to be competitive, so it’s fine for us, but it’s an atrocity for the rest of the state.”
Ocean City will spend $3.7 million in advertising next year and spent just over $3 million for the upcoming summer season, launching a new television campaign in five major markets including New York featuring the town’s new face/mascot Rodney the Lifeguard, and will launch a new website in about a month’s time.
A percentage of the town’s room tax, which was raised a half percent to 4.5-percent last year, is allotted to keep the town’s ad budget funded and growing for at least the next few years, according to Travers.
For what it’s worth, the state’s slogan for print ads this year in hopes of drawing visitors to Maryland is “Pretty. Close.”