Chamber, City Looking To Improve Vacation Guide

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City and the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce are taking steps forward together in creating a better product to attract more vacationers to town.

Beginning in 2010, the Town of Ocean City and the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce agreed upon a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to merge their two individual visitor guide publications into one, the Ocean City Vacation Guide.

Among other responsibilities, the chamber is in charge of the ad sales, content, design, printing and distribution. The town agreed to purchase two, two-page spreads at a cost of $15,000 per year for a two-year period.

Last week Chamber of Commerce President Tom Perlozzo approached the Mayor and City Council to request the use of the town’s branded marketing elements, such as Rodney the Lifeguard, the Summer of Thanks campaign and the town’s website, to be integrated into the visitors guide. He also asked permission to have Ocean City’s advertising agency, MGH, give feedback on the guide in moving forward into 2012.

Perlozzo said the cover of the guide could possibly use the same color theme as the town’s website to create continuity. The Chamber of Commerce has requested a cost estimate from MGH in creating a cover page for the guide to integrate the town’s marketing elements.

“MGH is on hold at this point but we are moving ahead regardless but we would like to utilize those elements within the guide,” Perlozzo said. “I think it would make a lot of sense moving forward.”

Perlozzo added organizers are exploring the use of technology and digital opportunities, such as adding a QR code to the cover. With a simple smartphone scan, visitors would be directed to the town’s website where they can make accommodations and view discounts and specials. They are also looking to create a “live” digital version of the guide online.

“We are going to bring the book to life so you can download … the magazine and scroll through it and it is going to be interactive versus being a static digital paper,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel explained that there is a theme incorporated into Ocean City’s campaigns, print ads, billboards, commercials and websites that MGH can provide feedback on how to take all of those elements and combine them into the vacationers guide.

“We could really make the book kind of close that loop and seal the deal for everyone who is going to the website seeing specials and getting the vacation guide in their hands,” she said. “If they’re in Lancaster Pa., and they see the Ocean City Vacation Guide, and they have seen the billboard, and they have seen the commercials, it’s all cohesive.”

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed it would make the best sense to combine the marketing tools.

“We want to work with the chamber upon their request to make the guide the very best it can be,” he said. “It is a piece that we send out, and a piece that they send out, and to have it have a seamless connection to what we’re doing would be advantageous.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight was pleased with calling the guide the Ocean City Vacation Guide. She added in researching other resort’s she found some charge for their guides.

“We have a good product that people can still get at no charge, very quickly and I look forward to seeing it,” she said.

Councilman Joe Hall agreed with incorporating the town’s marketing elements into the guide as well.

“I view Ocean City more as a customer of your book than a partner,” he said. “Certainly for what we are investing in it, I think we deserve our website included.”

The council approved the chamber’s request to have MGH provide feedback on moving forward on next year’s publication of Ocean City Vacation Guide.

“I think the whole idea is to work together, we are all selling the same product,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said.

In other business last week, a request was made to extend the contract with Zambelli Internationale.

“The three-year contract with Zambelli Internationale to provide fireworks at two locations during the Fourth of July has been completed,” Special Event Director John Sullivan said. “However, the town has received a non-solicited proposal from Zambelli to continue the contract for an additional three years at the same amount of money for the same show.”

The total for the two firework shows per year is $62,500. The request was submitted along with letters from the Fire Marshal’s Office, Public Works Department and the Parks Superintendent recommending the extension of the town’s contract with Zambelli.

“The fact that Zambelli has worked well with all of our departments, it has been a smooth operation, doesn’t leave the town in obligation to re-visit the contract,” City Solicitor Guy Ayres pointed out.

Pillas acknowledged Zambelli has worked well with Ocean City but made the motion to send out a Request For Proposal (RFP) for bids to explore the town’s options.

Joe Hall suggested adding to the RFP the possibility of having “small low-level” firework shows for additional dates, and the council voted unanimously to approve the amended motion.