Crowd Estimates Reflect Solid April

OCEAN CITY – Although current economic conditions have prompted concerns about the upcoming summer, Ocean City finally got a bit of good news this week.

April’s demoflush numbers were released on Monday, showing that the resort enjoyed its best April since 1992, and 2009’s year-to-date numbers showed that Ocean City is well ahead of last year’s pace.

Since the fall, it seems that anytime numbers “get crunched” around the resort, the outlook and the projected future looks nothing but bleak, as perfectly shown by the town’s shrinking budget and revenue stream, but this set of numbers have finally led some in the resort toward the optimistic side of the argument concerning the upcoming summer season.

Perhaps the record could be attributed to what Mayor Rick Meehan called the “perfect storm of circumstances.” Meehan cited nice weather and a month of popular events, including last weekend’s Maryland International Kite Expo and Ward Museum’s Carving Competition. Together, they helped tip April’s demoflush numbers to the highest point since the numbers began being recorded in 1992.

More than 493,000 people were estimated to have visited Ocean City in April based on the town public relations office’s demoflush numbers, which measures the number of visitors based on the volume of wastewater used, for an average of over 123,000 per week, which is also the highest April ever.

In comparison, April 2008 demoflush numbers recorded just over 452,000 monthly visitors for an average of slightly more than 113,000.

April 2003 and 2007 were previously the best on record which saw over 488,000 visit the resort in 2003, for example, and an average of 122,156 in April 2007. What makes those numbers especially notable is that both years went on to be what was considered successful summer seasons, as both 2003 and 2007 welcomed over eight million people to the resort.

It should also be noted that 2008 was widely considered to be a disappointment from a numbers standpoint, as yearly visitors dropped below the eight million mark (roughly 7.8 million) for the first time since 1999, to its lowest point since 1993, and saw the lowest amount of visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day (3.9 million) since 1986.

Town officials have been cautiously optimistic about the upcoming summer season, citing the fact that the town will be spending more money than ever before (over $3 million) on tourism advertising, and that Ocean City will more than likely fare well based on its “drive-to” geographic location to several major markets.

In 2009 to date, demoflush numbers cite that the resort has welcomed over 1.5 million people through April, compared to 1.4 million to this point last year.

“These stellar numbers add to our optimism for the 2009 summer season,” said Meehan, who called Ocean City a “practical and economical vacation destination in this uncertain economy.”

Area merchants, especially those on the Boardwalk, cited solid numbers in the past few weeks, including the Kite Loft, which had a successful annual kite exposition last weekend, bringing large crowds of onlookers and spectators to an already buzzing Boardwalk.

“Not only did we do well at The Kite Loft but several merchants told me how they had a record weekend and noted that it was due to the kite event,” said Knerr via email. “Of course, the great weather certainly had an impact but the bottom line is that vacationers love to come to Ocean City when various events are taking place.”

Knerr said that he is being inundated with job applicants, his summer housing for his employees is completely booked and his sense of optimism for the season remains strong.

“I am certainly an optimist, but I firmly believe that Ocean City will have an outstanding season regardless of the state of our national affairs, said Knerr. “We are definitely off to a fantastic start for the 2009 season.”