Resort’s Broad Marketing Survey Nearing Completion

OCEAN CITY — Resort tourism officials this week resumed the discussion about a proposed comprehensive marketing survey to determine if some sectors of the vacationing public are no longer coming to Ocean City and why.

In July, the Mayor and Council exercised an option to renew the town’s contract with the advertising agency MGH, but not before a spirited discussion about the need for some kind of marketing survey to determine how best and where to direct the resort’s advertising budget. Out of that discussion came a decision to pursue a marketing survey to help ensure the town’s advertising efforts were reaching the desired target audience.

MGH President Andy Mallis this summer began working on the comprehensive marketing survey along with Tourism Director Donna Abbott. Although the survey is not yet ready for public consumption, Mallis on Monday outlined some of its early highlights for the Tourism Committee. He said the proposed questions in the survey should give resort officials a better snapshot of the visitors to Ocean City, why they decide to choose the resort and, perhaps more importantly, why some are no longer coming.

“I think the overall concern should be are we losing people?” he said. “If so, why? Have vacation habits changed? Have family compositions changed? Have people’s financial situations changed? These are some of the bigger issues we’re trying to address with this. If they no longer visit Ocean City, then why? Where are they going?”

Tourism Committee Chair Mary Knight said the survey should attempt to find out if the vacationing public is choosing other options. It’s no secret many families with school-age children have their kids in and out of sports camps and leagues throughout the summer and questioned if that wasn’t chipping away at the traditional beach vacation for some. Knight referenced a current study by the county into the possibility of developing a major sports complex somewhere in Worcester.

“It would be interesting to know if people aren’t visiting our beach resort, are they going to sports destinations?” she said. “That’s a big thing right now. The county is currently studying a sports complex somewhere in Worcester.”

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones said the finished product should be able to ascertain what the vacationing public is looking for in choosing a destination.

“I’d like to try to figure out the trends for accommodations,” she said. “What were they seeking before in their accommodations? Are they still seeking the same things?”

Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel said the cost of a vacation could be even more of a determining factor in choosing a destination and suggested the final survey gauge the public’s perception of the costs of a typical Ocean City visit.

“I think an important thing to look at is their perception of the cost,” she said. “What are they looking to spend on vacation? Can they find that here?”

Mallis said MGH and the tourism department had a good jumping-off point with thousands of subscribers to the town’s news feed websites that could be administered the survey.

“We have a 70,000-person database, or people who sign up for our e-news,” he said. “We really don’t know too much about those people. This is a quantitative survey, so the more response we get the better.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said the final survey should attempt to find out why so many people choose Ocean City and not strictly those who do not.

“I think the scope of this can be broader,” he said. “If we’re looking for reasons why they aren’t coming, then I think we need to look at the reasons so many are coming.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.