Weather Provides Slow OC Season Start, But Optimism Remains For Strong Summer

OCEAN CITY – Officials say they are optimistic about the resort’s summer season as they prepare for warmer weather and Independence Day festivities.

While cooler, rainy weather provided a slower start to the summer season, officials in Ocean City say they are eager to see the trend change, particularly as Fourth of July celebrations near.

“So the season thus far has been feeling a little slow; however, given the weather, not completely unexpected as weather drives business,” said Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association. “Now that it is almost July, we should see the heat and business should pick up.”

Jones reported this week that there are still plenty of hotel rooms available ahead of the July 4 holiday.

She said years in which Independence Day falls on a weekday are never ideal for the resort, as many do not have time off on the day before or the day after. She also pointed to short-term rentals and their impact on reservations and dining.

“Increased supply of short-term rentals is having an effect on hotel/motels,” she added. “If someone rents short-term rental, they are cooking in the units and not dining out as much.”

Jones said other factors have played a role in visitation to Ocean City. Jones noted that destination analysts and recent webinars all point to a mild economic slowdown, which tends to feed consumer fears of spending. She added that inflation has also impacted travel.

“They are also noting that the most effected are the lower income earners as inflation has gobbled up any wage increases,” she said. “Higher wage earners continue to seek experiences and are still traveling so there is resilience in travel in those catering to higher household earners.”

Jones also highlighted the post-COVID climate and the return of air and cruise travel.

“We fared so well in 2021 and 2022 as cruise and air industries suffered greatly; travel to cities also slowed in that time but we excelled due to outdoor options,” she said. “Travel via air, cruise and city exploring is taking some of that share now and we’ve leveled off.  In general, Expedia reported that travel demand is strong and spending in this category has outpaced others as folks are seeking adventure.”

Jones noted, however, that there is some positive news to be found.

“Good news is that growth will come in the business travel as people are seeking face-to-face interactions,” she said.

Resort officials say they are also eager for the return of Independence Day celebrations, which typically bring more people into town.

While COVID restrictions, accidental detonations and labor issues prompted the cancellation of fireworks displays the last three years, officials are hoping the two July 4 shows will proceed as planned.

“Although I can’t control the weather, I look forward to two terrific fireworks displays at Northside Park and Downtown this July 4th,” City Manager Terry McGean said. “I would remind everyone to come early, stay late, be patient with the traffic, and enjoy the shows.”

Ocean City Marketing and Communications Director Jessica Waters said the town’s celebrations will include a downtown show featuring the U.S. Army Band Downrange and DJ Kutt. At Northside Park, DJ Knappy and Gizmo will provide a family friendly show.

“Excitement is brewing for the upcoming July 4th weekend,” she said. “As the Tourism Department, we are thrilled to invite visitors to celebrate our vibrant coastal paradise.”

She added, “Of course, Mother Nature is one thing we cannot control, although early forecasts look like great beach days. Overall we expect the town to be busy with families and friends spending America’s birthday in Ocean City. After the holiday, we have several weeks of summer left to enjoy free events, the beautiful beach and bay, and all of our outstanding businesses, which genuinely make Ocean City Somewhere to Smile About.”

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.