Season Numbers Reason for Optimism

OCEAN CITY- Although the numbers only tell part of the story, town officials say that it was at least somewhat of a happy ending to the summer season, all things considered.

When September’s room and food and beverage tax statistics were released last week, no one expected to see any broken records, but what the September numbers showed, was in fact, the first time that both numbers had gone up from the previous year since October of 2008.

Room tax receipts jumped $81,000 or 8-percent from last September, and food and beverage tax, when taking into account the fact that the town cut it in half, jumped $65,000 or 23 percent when comparing “apples to apples”, according to Mayor Rick Meehan.

“What the numbers proved is that our proactive and downright aggressive approach at advertising our town, and not cutting back in getting our message out there proved to be very effective this year,” said Meehan. “The food tax numbers showed that people spent money in the town of Ocean City, and if you look at the room tax numbers, I think we actually booked more rooms this year, because the number held pretty close, and I would bet that rooms probably cost a bit less this year.”

As far as room tax goes, September’s slight spike in revenue was the first since April when the town reported a record month, although it should be noted that despite September’s stellar statistical performance on paper, Labor Day weekend fell in September this year, whereas last year, it fell partially in August.

With that said, October’s numbers historically take a huge fall from September’s plus million dollar revenue rake in, as last year, the town only brought in a little more than $353,000 in room tax revenue versus $1.04 million brought in September of 2008.

In addition, last year’s room tax revenue fell drastically compared to 2007 in the months of November and December dipping to $149,162 and $92,620 respectively.

With the closing of the Route 90 bridge for structural repairs scheduled to be until at least mid-December, some in the town are expecting November and December’s room tax revenue numbers to be pretty bleak in comparison.

However, from a food and beverage tax standpoint, last October saw a slight increase from the prior year, and November and December fared much better, which could give a sense of optimism to local businesses and restaurateurs who are bracing for a literal and proverbial cold winter.

Princess Royale and Princess Bayside General Manager Jon Tremellen said that if you look at the national averages, the town of Ocean City fared just about as well as it could have this season, and was admittedly quite pleased with September’s statistics.

“September was a good month, and it had to be up because we held consistent with the room tax numbers which showed losses every month since April,” said Tremellen. “It’s ugly out there right now as this year has been the worst decline in the average daily rate in the hotel industry in over 40 years, but if you look at the national averages and compare Ocean City which was only down about 4 percent, that’s about as good as anyone can hope for right now.”

Tremellen also agreed that he expects October, November, and December room tax figures to plummet due to the closing of the Route 90 bridge.

“It’s going to be terrible, and we’ve already felt the fallout from that bridge being closed,” he said. “Usually, October is a big month for large groups to stay here and we’ve already had a number of cancellations.  It seemed like right after Labor Day, the bottom just dropped out in Ocean City.”

Still, Meehan says that the town should look at the positives and argues that the final revenue numbers for the summer season show that Ocean City fared well, and certainly better than most.

“I have been challenging people to find another resort that fared as well as we did this year, and no one has done that yet, and I’m not sure if you can,” he said.