State Official Stresses Tourism’s Economic Importance

OCEAN CITY – Officials with the state’s Tourism Development Office spoke with members of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association at an economic development committee meeting this month about the importance of tourism dollars.

Within the presentation, members were able to see the impact of Ocean City’s tourism on economic development.

Liz Fitzsimmons, managing director of Tourism, Film and the Arts, encouraged attendees to seek support of tourism from the state’s politicians.

Fitzsimmons told members that Ocean City is one of the top two destinations in Maryland, behind Baltimore, and has influence over the state’s tourism and economic development.

Residents from the surrounding states, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, were frequent visitors to the area last summer, but Fitzsimmons says the state could afford to place more efforts into attracting more individuals from Pittsburgh, a growing demographic of tourists.

Fitzsimmons says these visitors spend $16.4 billion on goods and services and provide $2.2 billion in state and local taxes.

Without the efforts of advertising and website development, these visitors could choose to visit other surrounding states, according to Fitzsimmons.

“We are competing for the hearts, minds, souls and wallets of each person’s dollar,” she says.

Fitzsimmons attributes advertising success in metropolitan areas of New York as a lesson to learn from.

In recent years, Ocean City has seen a growing presence from New York natives, who would rather travel two and a half hours to the Eastern Shore, instead of four hours to the Hamptons, Fitzsimmons told the crowd.

In July of this summer, residents from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Bronx, N.Y., were among the top 10 groups of people who asked for visitor guides while on vacation, according to Ocean City’s monthly metrics.

Tourism is the state’s 10th largest sector and employees more than 140,000 workers.

Yet, Fitzsimmons says the economic impact of visitation justifies larger tourism budgets and efforts. Maryland ranks No. 25 in tourism budgeting among the states, with a regional budget of $20 million.

“We need to rise above the pack a little bit,” Fitzsimmons says.

Both Mayor Rick Meehan and State Delegate Mary Beth Carozza gave their support to Fitzsimmons at the meeting.

“We will continue to protect tourism dollars,” Carozza says. “We will also continue the post-Labor Day success story.”

Meehan told the audience that he couldn’t remember a more successful year in the state’s history.

“Overall, tourism in the state of Maryland is higher than I’ve even seen,” Meehan told the crowd.

State Sen. Jim Mathias also sought the support of members at the meeting on another topic related to tourism. He updated attendees on the possible overturn of Gov. Larry Hogan’s mandate calling for post-Labor Day school starts. Mathias, a proponent of Hogan’s mandate, says the executive order could preserve jobs in Ocean City.

“We are only at the 50-yard line,” Mathias says. “We are still in the fight.”

United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore’s Executive Director Katherine Momme also made a presentation at the meeting. Momme announced the fundraising totals for this summer’s first Dine United OC competition.  The event raised more than $44,000 and will go to local programs within the region.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.