BERLIN – The sight of a tour bus at the curb in front of the welcome center, passengers disembarking and flooding the sidewalk as they make their way to the nearest shops, is not a rare one in Berlin.
It could soon become even more common, however, as more bus companies want to bring their customers to the historic town. Various tour directors will visit the town this month to familiarize themselves in advance of more visits.
“They are really interested in bringing more bus tours to Berlin,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director.
Currently, the town hosts 20 to 40 bus tours a year. They’re primarily seniors from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania who take the bus into town to spend an afternoon here. Buses pull over in front of the welcome center, where Wells has a volunteer greet the group and distribute maps and shopping bags.
“They’ll grab lunch or go shopping,” Wells said. “If the museum’s open they’ll go in the museum.”
Tour companies coordinate with Wells in advance, so she’s able to reach out to downtown restaurants and merchants to let them know a large group will be visiting.
“They get advance notice so they know how to accommodate for staffing,” she said.
Occasionally, she even works with shops like Jeff Auxer Designs and Beach Memories to set up visits for the bus group. She can also coordinate with staff at the Mermaid Museum and the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum for bus visits. Wells said the tour directors like the array of shops, restaurants and activities in Berlin.
“We have something for everyone here,” Wells said.
Ryan Nellans, executive director of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, said the buses are great for the downtown economy.
“Bus tours are amazing for the town and Main Street in particular,” Nellans said. “They bring in many dozens of patrons with each trip. Patrons whose sole purpose is to spend money at stores, restaurants and attractions. More than that, it makes economic sense because these 40 or so people in each bus aren’t occupying 20 or more parking spaces, leaving them free for use by other additional patrons.”
To continue the ongoing success of the bus tours, Wells is working with the Harrison Group – owner of multiple hotels and restaurants in Ocean City — to expand tour options. This month she’ll be providing promotional information on the town and hosting a familiarity visit for tour directors.
“We have a really good working relationship with the Harrison Group and they felt that Berlin was such a wonderful destination they want to bring even more bus tours here,” she said.