Tourism Metrics Talk Continues In Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – How to define Ocean City’s tool to measure tourism and where tourists are coming from was further discussed this week.

During a Tourism Commission meeting a couple of weeks ago, Ocean City officials discussed an issue that has been a concern for years — how to measure the amount of tourism passing through Ocean City.

The discussion concluded with several options left to be further explored, such as the State of Maryland’s tourism metric, local resources at Salisbury University or hiring an independent entity.

This week, State Tourism Director Margot Amelia was unable to attend the meeting to discuss the state’s tourism metric but plans to attend during a meeting in May.

Andy Malis, president of MGH, the town’s advertising agency, had suggested contacting Nobi in coming up with a way to measure Ocean City’s tourism. Nobi is a group of scientists that specializes in using complex mathematical modeling techniques and applied statistics in the form of experimental design to help clients achieve their objectives, which in Ocean City’s case is how to know if particular actions or marketing campaigns have been effective in stimulating tourism.

Nobi Chief Scientist Kieron Dey recognized the city’s use of Demoflush, which is an estimation of the population in Ocean City based on wastewater flow from Ocean City, and room and food tax to track data in real time sets the foundation and establishes confidence in the statistical methods, although it is not the most powerful use of data.

Dey furthered the most powerful method can be produced that will have tighter limits and detect finer fluctuations. Dey submitted several different phases of research, analyzing historical data, establishing economic control charts to track tourism data and establishing tactics and strategies to increase tourism.

“They would boil it down so that we would understand it … they have worked with three other tourist areas and have increased the tourism by a third,” Tourism Commission Chair Mary Knight said.

The downfall to hiring Nobi is the study would come with a significantly high price, Knight said, and working with the State of Maryland, along with data collected from current studies like Smith Travel Report,  would be a safer first step in coming up with a metric.

Abbott provided data she pulled from the State of Maryland’s Department of Tourism Development of tourism sales and room tax reports from Fiscal Year 2012.

“We will eventually get more current metrics from the state but right now they have a position in their office that compiles these reports and that position has been vacant up until recently … so I think with that position coming back on board we will get information in a more current fashion,” she said.

Knight provided an example of an economic dashboard of metrics from Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s that reflected data collected over the years from the State of Wyoming, the tourism sector and business sector

“It is pretty fascinating,” she said. “They do an economic barometer that gives you everything from how much they are getting in room tax to unemployment.”

Michael James, managing partner of the Carousel Hotel Group, suggested the city begin comparing state and county tourism numbers, along with tourism reports that the city and businesses subscribe to, in an attempt to find a correlation among the various sources of data.

Knight recommended the development of a subcommittee to analyze available tourism data.

“The next step is developing a subcommittee to explore this a little bit further,” Abbott said. “There are a whole bunch of different things we could put on a dashboard like trash collection, bus revenue, parking lot revenue, and all those different things we have that we can put into a report to have a better picture of what’s going on.”