Ocean City Today
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MGH outlines objectives in marketing survey

Tourism Commission wants agency to focus on visitors’ vacation habits, hotel stays
By Katie Tabeling | Sep 14, 2017

(Sept. 15, 2017) The Ocean City Tourism Commission continues to work on a survey to measure the effectiveness of the resort’s advertising campaign, as other questionnaire parameters were determined at its Monday meeting.

MGH President Andy Malis presented a detailed list of the survey’s goals to the commission and opened the conversation for any suggestions. He did point out that based on past discussions on advertising, there is one clear objective: to find out if Ocean City is losing visitors.

“The overall concern of everyone is are we losing people? If so where are they going and why aren’t they coming back?” Malis said. “There’s several ways we can go about getting the same information.”

Once the questionnaire is created, it will be distributed to roughly 70,000 people who have subscribed to the town’s e-news alerts, and thousands of others who gave information to the Visitors Center and the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. The first question would ask when was the last time the survey-taker visited Ocean City, as MGH would want answers from recent visitors.

Malis said the questionnaire would be formatted so reviewers could get a better idea of why a party gave a particular answer. For example, if a respondent said he or she doesn’t come to Ocean City because of a busy schedule with children’s activities at home, the survey would ask if the children were involved in sports.

“The first goal is to find out what are our visitors habits are — what the frequency of visit, what time of year do they come, and length of stay,” Malis said. “Second, have the vacation habits changed in the past year, like where and when they go for a beach vacation?”

The next step would be to examine the reasons why vacations change for Ocean City’s key demographic. Top reasons, Malis said, would be children growing up, financial changes or wanting a change in scenery.

“That’s also where we’d probe how much the negative publicity is working against us,” he said. “There’s different factors that what attracts and detracts them from visiting Ocean City, including perceptions.”

The Tourism Commission embraced Malis’s approach, but some members did have suggestions. Council Secretary Mary Knight, who chairs the commission, asked whether it might be helpful to find out if Ocean City needs to expand sports tourism.

Vacations arranged around sports tournaments is a $8 to $12 billion industry, she said, “so it would be interesting to see if people are not vacationing here because of their children play games elsewhere.”

Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel expressed interest in adding questions focused on the lodging industry.

“I’d like to find out that what their habits were for accommodations in the past, and has that changed now,” Jones said. “Are they looking for chain hotels, or do they value independent businesses and how they research their hotels?”

“There’s also the question of amenities,” Pursel added. “Maybe when they first came, they didn’t care about the game room or the pool, but now with kids they do.”

Councilman John Gehrig suggested not limiting the survey to recent visitors, as there is value in understanding why former vacationers have not returned.

“If people are not engaging with us by opening our emails or coming back, then we can find out why,” he said. “Sometimes people that have negative things to say will say them.”

“Some of the people on our e-news alerts have never been here,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “One thing we shouldn’t forget to focus on is why they are coming to Ocean City.”

MGH will prepare a draft list of survey questions for the Tourism Commission before the October meeting.

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