Friday, July 23–Bay Bridge Traffic Soars

CITY — A new Bay Bridge study shows an approximated 40-percent increase in
traffic coming to the Eastern Shore in the month of June, but some area
businesses aren’t seeing a similar increase in their occupancy or sales.

This week, Catherine
Noone, toll manager for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, sent a report to Ocean City
Emergency Planner Richard “Buzzy” Bayles outlining a substantial increase in
traffic streaming eastbound over the Bay Bridge during the week.

“I asked Ken Cimino, the
administrator for the Bay Bridge, if he’d noticed any different traffic volume
for Sundays or Mondays, coming this way, from last year to the present,” said

Bayles in an interdepartmental email. “I was somewhat startled in his initial response that, yes, he

and his staff have noticed, and have documentation, that reveals an increase
since last year. The Bridge Authority is continuing to monitor and record this
data, and if necessary, will increase staffing for certain periods and, also,
consider operating reverse lane flow, as on weekends.”

report somewhat clashes with reports throughout the business community that
weekends have proven to be good for business, but during the week, particularly
in the early days of the week, have been humble at best.

exactly what I’ve been hearing around town,” said Ocean City
Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones. “I’ve been
told that weekends have been really strong and not so much during the week, but
I have been told that hotels are really doing well with the ‘Rodney Saves’
promotion that the city created this year.”

One hotelier that has
found significant success by taking advantage of the city’s essential free
marketing promotion, “Rodney Saves,” is Jon Tremellen, of the Princess Royale
and Princess Bayside.

“It’s been tremendous
for us as has our super summer savings which gives people a free breakfast
buffet for up to four people,” said Tremellen. “Our occupancy is up 15%, and we
are going down on Fridays with less rooms than we did last year, and it’s
taking us less time to sell out all of our weekend rooms, so that means that
people aren’t waiting quite as much until the last minute to book, but they
still aren’t booking far in advance.”

Depending on whom one
polls in Ocean City, the incremental rise or hold steady in summertime business
versus last year varies greatly from one business to another, but of all the
businesses polled, none have cited anywhere close to a 40-percent increase in
business, as cited in the Bay Bridge study, especially not during the week.

“I’m not sure where all
that extra traffic is going, but I don’t think it’s all coming here,” said
Jones. “I think people are seeing a better year because they are working hard
to offer value to their customers and probably paying more attention than ever
to how competitive their rates are.  So,
is it a better year thus far? Probably. Is there room for growth and
improvement? Absolutely.”

Jones said that only
half of the hotels in the OCHMRA have taken advantage of the “Rodney Saves”
promotion and she encouraged more restaurants to get on board with the

“People want something
for free, but the idea is that if you give them an appetizer, they will come
back again and again and buy entrees and drinks,” said Jones.

Despite the report from
the Bay Bridge, local Demoflush numbers actually show that the town has been
down every weekend from the first weekend in May until the first weekend in
July, when compared to the same time period last season.

Still, Tremellen says
he’s optimistic on the outlook for the rest of the summer season in Ocean City.

“We are just hitting the
busy time of the season, and we are up from last year, which was a rough one in
Ocean City, but not nearly as rough as it was everywhere else in the country,”
said Tremellen. “I think things are shaping up to have a strong finish by the
end of the 2010 season.”