OCEAN CITY – With the holiday weekend here, there was talk of note about tourism around Ocean City. Here’s a couple highlights.
Ocean City Scores Demoflush “Hat Trick”
There were many people who were ready to flush their expectations for the summer season down the proverbial drain last fall after the recession hit full stride, but after demoflush numbers were released this week, the town is now reporting that it has scored a “hat trick” of three straight record attendance months in Ocean City.
Ocean City Public Relations Director Donna Abbott released the findings of the demoflush estimates, based on a calculation of wastewater, which show that Ocean City hosted more than one million visitors during the month of June. This is the first time that the town has eclipsed the million mark for visitors in June since 2007, when there were five weekends in the month. By comparison, demoflush estimated that 941,025 people visited the resort during the month of June in 2008.
Granted, there are many who contest that demoflush is a flawed estimation, choosing to gauge the town’s success or “busyness” based on room tax or food and beverage tax revenue. Both of those figures take six weeks to record and report, but for comparison’s sake, the month of May, which was also a record month, according to demoflush, saw a $25,000 rise in food and beverage tax from last year, but a $25,000 decline in room tax revenue for Ocean City.
In fact, throughout all of 2009 thus far, the month of April ($5,000 increase) is the only month that has shown an increase in room tax revenue, while food and beverage tax revenue has been better than its comparable month from 2008 all year long.
Mayor Rick Meehan opened the Maryland Municipal League’s week- long convention at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center by citing the news of Ocean City’s three straight record months, according to demoflush, and it was met with “thunderous applause”, according to Meehan.
“People are ready for some good news, and I think that we are faring better than some right now in these times,” said Meehan. “Demoflush is not an exact science, but it shows that we are generating business, energy and cash flow by getting people to town.”
However, Councilman Joe Hall, owner of Hall’s Restaurant, has received dismal reports from business owners so far this summer.
“I’ve heard numbers ranging anywhere from 5 percent to 50 percent down from last year,” said Hall, “and after this season, I predict that demoflush is going to get flushed because the business community isn’t going to tolerate it being the barometer of success anymore.”
Meehan noted there might be an increase in the amount of day- trippers, citing the increased parking revenue thus far, but hoped that July and August would bring large numbers of families staying for more than just the day.
“If someone would have told me in October that we would have three straight record months on any scale heading into Fourth of July weekend, I don’t know if I would’ve believed them,” said Meehan, “but if we can keep this up through the strong months in the summer, we should end up at a pretty good place.”
State Leaders Praise
OC’s New Ad Approach
Even some politicians will admit off the record that the Maryland Municipal League is as much about networking and dinner parties as it is about seminars and tutorial governmental programs. With that being said, the annual MML convention was held this week at the Convention Center and oddly enough, several council members reported that they were very surprised with the “overwhelmingly positive response” to not only the town’s handling of the budget, but also the new advertising campaign and even the new website.
“The MML is always an eye-opening experience,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic. “All leaders have their own take on how to deal with certain situations and it’s very helpful to see how others are handling things, because we all have the same problems.”
Mitrecic said that he was amazed by the response to not only the town’s new website but also the town’s new mascot of sorts, Rodney the Lifeguard.
“It’s crazy how everyone seems to be in love with Rodney, and the new website. We must be doing something right, because people were so taken with the character and the response from the new website from other municipal leaders has been tremendous,” Mitrecic said.
Margot Amelia, the Maryland State Executive Director for the Office of Tourism Development, said the recent statistical response from their new visitmaryland.org site was “mind boggling” and thought that Ocean City was on the right track with the online revamp and the “out-of-the-box” campaign.
“I personally think the Rodney campaign is fantastic. I think it’s broken through to people and it has a very simple message and doesn’t necessarily say who should come to Ocean City, it just reminds everyone that they should,” she said.
Amelia said she’d like to see the state be a little “less amorphous and a little more direct” with its advertising message, saying the town made a “very strong mark in the sand with the Rodney campaign and the new website.”