Friday, May 7–Positive Vibes For Season Prospects

OCEAN CITY – On the eve of another summer, Ocean City officials were decidedly bullish on the prospects for the 2010 season when they addressed resort business leaders on Wednesday.

Proactive and progressive were words used often when a contingent of Ocean City officials addressed the resort’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) on Wednesday.

Mayor Rick Meehan led the contingent, which also included Communications Manager Donna Abbott, Tourism Director Deb Turk and Convention Center Director Rick Hamilton, and the consistent message throughout the presentation is that the resort is poised for a successful 2010 season.

“We’re all extremely optimistic about this summer, especially after the long, cold winter everyone endured,” said Abbott, leading off the presentation. “I think we all had a little cabin fever and we’re counting on that same feeling from our thousands of visitors from places colder and snowier than Ocean City.”

Abbott explained the town has already embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign including a press junket with Meehan leading the way in Baltimore. She said the trip included visits to eight media outlets in Baltimore in the span of about four hours. Similar media blitz efforts are planned for Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and even New York City in the coming weeks. The New York City visit would be a first for Ocean City.

“We’re hoping to get on the ‘Today’ show or ‘Good Morning America’ when we get into New York,” she said.

Turk agreed the resort’s tourism marketing and promotion plan is now in full swing and praised the foresight of local elected officials to dedicate a percentage of the room tax collected in Ocean City back into the town’s marketing budget.

“We wouldn’t be doing as well as we are without that room tax revenue,” she said. “For fiscal year 2011, we’re looking at a marketing budget of around $4 million and it ratchets up every year.”

Turk said dedicating a portion of the room tax to tourism marketing came at a perfect time when the state of Maryland was slashing its marketing budget or eliminating in all together. State officials have drastically cut money spent on marketing Maryland as a tourism destination in recent years, from a peak annual budget of around $7 million just three years ago to under $2 million next year.

“The state’s advertising budget is in peril,” she said. “When we budget more than the entire state, you know it’s in peril. I think we were fully funded going into 2011 for about $5 million, but that figure is down to under $2 million now.”

For neighboring resort communities, the promotion picture is even bleaker, according to Turk, who said the state of New Jersey decided recently to cut all tourism marketing for its destinations.

“New Jersey just cut their entire promotion budget for spring,” she said. “There is no advertising for the Jersey Shore this summer. They cut it right out of their state budget.”

According to Turk, Ocean City has positioned itself well for a strong summer with an aggressive marketing campaign that includes the “Rodney” initiative started last year along with a blitz of radio and TV ads, strategically placed billboards in the metropolitan areas and the newest craze such as the social media like Facebook and Twitter.

In addition, the town’s marketing machine is taking advantage of the proliferation of “smart phones” and “I-pads” to reach potential visitors.

“That keeps us head and shoulders above the competition because nobody else is doing that,” said Turk.

Meehan agreed the collective efforts of the town’s marketing and promotion teams point to a strong summer season. He said the seeds were planted last year when Ocean City was proactive and aggressive with marketing while other destinations retreated.

“We’re very upbeat and very positive about 2010, and it starts because we were so proactive in 2009,” he said. “I challenged anybody to tell me another resort that did as well as we did last year and I couldn’t find anybody.”