The Ocean City Mayor and Council voted 4-2 this week to slightly increase the room tax distribution for marketing in phases.
Over the last couple months, city officials have been discussing with tourism folks a phased plan to shift a bit more of the room tax revenue toward marketing and promotion expenses while continuing to allocate funds to the operating budget to help pay for tourism expenses.
Though the favorable vote was expected this week, the philosophical discussion on whether Ocean City should be in the business of marketing tourism was interesting. There are some who believe the private sector should be driving the resort’s vast marketing and promotion effort.
While a reasonable position, it’s been clear for Ocean City over many years a unified campaign is best led by one consistent direction. There is a vast disparity of opinions and positions among business owners in Ocean City. There needs to be a larger, consolidated direction under the leadership of tourism savants. Ocean City’s government is committed to this approach with its newly created department and leadership. A major investment in this course was recently approved with new personnel added, and the city is now looking to increase the marketing budget to allow for greater outreach and more targeted advertising campaigns.
Between now and when the new room tax distribution formula takes effect, Ocean City would be smart to request the Worcester County Commissioners increase the room tax. It will help ensure tourism pays for itself by covering operational expenses associated with more people coming to the area, while also remaining competitive with other competing beach resorts.
Worcester County’s room tax was last increased in 2019 from 4.5% to 5%. Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca has been advocating for increasing the room tax to 5.5% effective January of 2023. He is pushing for the planning to start now because the Worcester County Commissioners are the authoritative body on the matter. Once the commissioners and city council are on the same page, the state must also sign off on the legislative change. DeLuca is right the process needs to start now. It should have been discussed more during the most recent discussion on reallocating room tax revenue to ensure the majority of the council’s support.
With these new investments in tourism, it’s reasonable to expect results, meaning more people will travel to this area, especially in the shoulder months. Increasing the room tax soon will help lay the foundation to support the growth while ensuring it continues in the future through continual reinvestment.