A Travel Industry Depression
(The following letter was sent to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan this week.)
Thank you for the thorough planning during this crisis and for taking the necessary proactive measures to protect Marylanders health. While the economy is in the midst of a recession, the travel industry is in a depression. On behalf of the Ocean City hospitality businesses, I feel I must make a final attempt at saving our community. The sensationalized media portrayal of Ocean City tourism has been unfair, I certainly would not want it influencing any re-opening decision making.
Please allow me to opine on the reality of life in Ocean City. The Memorial Day weekend Reuters photo (see attached) which was circulated on many media platforms inaccurately depicted the activity in Ocean City. Through the use of compression and telephoto lens, the photo made it look like visitors were on top of one another, however, there was plenty of social distancing over the last couple of weekends. Additionally, in the most recent New York Times now being circulated through other newspapers, the reporter never contacted any official person, or the business whose photograph was used. Media sensationalism is ruining our country.
Tourism is our city’s only economic engine, and those businesses trickle down to the plumbers, electricians and so forth. While I realize your Roadmap to Recovery is a guiding document and not based on a calendar, I firmly believe that without a summer season, the number of bankrupt families and suicides will be alarming. Isolation and economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic are already resulting in a sharp spike in people seeking mental health help.
Tourism’s core values are to make people feel welcome, comfortable and safe. The nature of our industry has always been to embrace challenges and persevere in stormy weather. Our protocols are in place, we need to open other activities and indoor dining or we will continue to force visitors to choose other destinations and/or crowd those businesses that are open.
Back in April, given our seasonality, we knew we had to take a proactive approach the minute the pandemic hit. We created an Ocean City Recovery team to develop our own guidelines on how we could safely re-open for our employees and visitors. This team includes private business owners, our health community, Mayor Meehan and government staff. Through collaboration, protocols are in place; I’m sure you’ve seen those outlined in Senator Carozza’s detailed memo.
Additionally, we have also worked with Mike Haynie of the Md. Center for Hospitality Training, who collaborated with DuPont, in the development of a training video for seasonal employees. Sanitation and social distancing protocols have been instituted all around town, employees wearing masks and businesses operating under capacity limits will be the norm. CDC guidelines have become a part of the daily discussion. Sadly, also in the daily discussion is who will not make it out of this, what business has gone under, or who can’t afford to put food on the table because unemployment kinks remain.
Just yesterday, our next-door neighbor, Fenwick Island, opened (with capacity limits) indoor dining, mini-golf, go-karts, casinos, gyms, wedding venues and outdoor gatherings for up to 250 people. It is very difficult to watch revenue cross the street.
We respect all that has gone into your planning; the science and data have shown numbers declining. Now is the time to allow our community to move forward with a local, community based approach to re-opening. Please allow us to do so. Thank you for your consideration.
Susan L. Jones
(The writer is the executive director
of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.)
A Sad Trip Planned
For the first time in 20 years we have enough money to bring our entire family down to OC for vacation. We accepted that the Air Show was postponed but now we will need to adjust our meal planning and now the tram is not opening to ride the Boardwalk, limiting our elderly from riding the length.
We will be there next week but with a lot of sadness. Our little one will not be able to experience the arcades or go karts or golf. So very sad.
Graduation Support Recognized
As we are all too aware these days, the world as we know it is constantly changing. For the members of the Stephen Decatur High School Class of 2020, the world changed for the better on May 27 when school and community members came together to create one of the most extraordinary events the town of Ocean City has ever sponsored, our boardwalk graduation procession.
This event was both unique and memorable and it would not have been possible without the help of numerous people who reached out with kind words, offers of support, and creative ideas that ultimately allowed us to celebrate our 294 graduating seniors in a spectacular way. Words can hardly express our appreciation, but we would like to start by thanking families, friends, community, business, and religious leaders, and all of the other members of our amazingly supportive village.
Specifically, we would like to recognize the following individuals and organizations, without whose support this event would not have been possible: Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Frank Miller, Lieutenant Scott Harner, Ocean City Police Department, Ocean City Public Works Department, Dave Messick and crew from Unscene Productions, Bob Rothermel and crew from Team Productions, Sergeant Robert Trautman and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Baker and Power 101.7 Radio Station, Bob Bunting of Ocean Aerial Ads, Meeghan and Jake Robinson of The Seaboard, Coastal Community Church, Susan Jones of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, Ocean City Jeep Club, Ocean City Fire Department, Ocean City businesses and restaurants, School Resource Officer Kenny Reed, Stephen Decatur High School faculty and staff and Worcester County Public Schools administrative staff.
Certainly, during these unprecedented times, our graduates are facing new challenges. Hopefully, this tremendous display of community support will empower them and serve as a reminder that great things are possible when people work together.
(The writer is the principal of Stephen Decatur High School.)
Essential Heroes Appreciated
Today, June 3 was my first visit to Ocean City since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. We have been following the Governor’s recommendations as well as ones from the CDC with the motto “Stay Home – Save Lives” becoming our way of life for the last three months. Not a day would pass without the desire to head over the bridge to the home away from home. As the restrictions began to lift I knew I was closer to getting there. After a tense week of following the murder of George Floyd and the protests that ensued, I was pretty sure it was time. Then I watched news coverage of the protests and saw my place of employment have its windows broken out on live television. I checked the weather forecast and it was to be 80 degrees and sunny. It had become time to escape to the oasis of Ocean City.
As I navigated crossing the Boardwalk crowd and social distanced myself down to a spot along the water’s edge, I immediately felt a sense of peace at being at the place I have loved for a half a century. I was decompressing and taking in the sounds of crashing waves and soaking up the sunshine when I noticed that something was amiss. There was a rather large group about 10-15 yards from me and the kids were having a ball. Yet, one little girl who had been having fun with the others just seemed to turn quiet and stare off into space. As I was wondering if she was ok, I quickly learned she was not. She began to suffer from a seizure. To say I was terrified would not be adequate. Her little body went limp and stiff and her eyes were in the back of her head. I immediately called 911 and hoped for the best.
Almost instantaneously, a few young folks from the OCBP came to her side to offer comfort. Her situation would clearly call for more immediate and intense care than they could provide. As they held her, I could hear the sirens of the OCFD ambulance. They parked on the street’s end at the boardwalk and a member of the OCFD was brought down on a four-wheeler to tend to the little girl. As the hero began administering aid, he was quickly joined by a few of his co-workers. The girl was placed on a stretcher, then onto the four-wheeler and whisked away to the ambulance and off to get good care.
While this traumatic scene may have felt like it took forever to unfurl, I am absolutely amazed at the professionalism and proficiency of the first line essential heroes. The OCBP gang was with the ailing girl literally within seconds. Even though we were on the widest part of the beach, the OCFD managed to be on scene within 4 minutes of my call to 911. I cannot say enough positive things about the professional cohesive team that I saw in action. While I do not know the outcome of the little girl, I can say with absolute confidence that the Ocean City first responders did everything they could and as quickly as they could to help save this child. My thoughts go out to the girl and her family and a big well-deserved thanks go to the first responders.
Crofton and Ocean City