City Council To Decide On $40K Tourism Strategic Plan

OCEAN CITY – If, ands and buts over Ocean City’s business success could be put to rest in the near future, as the Tourism Commission is sending a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council for a tourism strategic plan to be crafted.
At the conclusion of this week’s Tourism Commission meeting, Tourism Director Donna Abbott explained for the past three years $40,000 has been budgeted as a line item in the tourism budget for Equation Research, a full-service strategic research agency.
Three years ago, Equation Research conducted a study regarding Ocean City’s Rodney the Lifeguard marketing campaign. Last year, MGH Advertising, the town’s contracted marketing company, suggested the town decided to use the budget allocation toward purchasing additional media buys over conducting a study two years in a row. This year Abbott kept the line item in the budget thinking a study could be conducted every other year.
“I wanted to bring this to your attention to decide if we want to spend that money again on Equation Research and look at perhaps investing in a long-term marketing future plan or do we want to spend that money on more advertising buys for the current fiscal year,” Abbott asked.
Carousel Hotel Group Managing Partner Michael James opined a new study was the wise course.
“I think identifying what is important to the city, the business community and the residents and having a plan is imperative,” James said. “I have never seen such a disparity in opinion of what summer is in 30 years. Some people say business is down and others say business is great.”
Greg Shockley, owner of Shenanigans Irish Pub and chair of the Maryland Tourism Development Board, said the ongoing perception business will always be better next year is unsustainable, and that national statistics show that travel is down, especially this summer.
“There has been frustration on how the city has been perceived, and how we need to combat that in the future,” he said. “On the council level, they are struggling every time they talk about room tax revenue, there needs to be some cohesiveness and clarity.”
Shockley referred to an incident that occurred last week when a presentation made to the Mayor and Council of an increase in room tax revenue thus far this summer turned into a debate over how that could be when visitor population has declined.
Shockley explained the state’s Tourism Department completed a strategic plan and when the recession hit in 2008 the state was prepared in what direction to move because a long-term plan was in place.
“That is the aggressive approach,” said City Manager David Recor, who initiated a strategic plan for Ocean City as a whole last year.
Ocean City’s strategic plan model that is nearing completion includes a vision statement that describes value-based principles and the town’s preferred future in next 15 years. It also includes a plan of goals that focuses on outcome-based objectives and potential actions for five years, a policy agenda for the Mayor and City Council, a management agenda for staff, a mission statement that includes principles that define the responsibility of town government and frame the primary services and core service businesses and core beliefs of personal values that define performance standards and expectations for employees.
The Tourism Commission was in consensus to keep the $40,000 budget line item for an Equation Research strategic plan for Ocean City tourism to be conducted this fiscal year. A favorable recommendation will be made to the full Mayor and City Council before further action takes place.