Tourism Commission Rolls Out 2021 Marketing Campaign

By MADDY VITALE

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in Ocean City have rebounded from the months-long shutdown, and nearing the end of the year, the majority of them have made up lost revenue, Tourism Development Commission officials said during a remote meeting Thursday.

The commission approved a $620,000 tourism budget, with $563,000 dedicated to its 2021 marketing campaign.

It is a good budget to set. With COVID, $620,000 looked like a good, conservative plan,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce and representative on the commission. “We have a healthy fund balance and we can always reset the budget for additional ad campaigns you would like to do.”

The breakdown for advertising is similar to prior years, with the bulk of it going to e-marketing at $224,000 and $200,000 for television.

Billboards make up $40,000 of the budget, with the remainder going toward brochures, direct mailings, contests and giveaways, vacation guides, print media and brochure distribution.

Gillian noted that the commission is in negotiations for Ocean City-themed billboard advertising. One of the main billboards will be in the area of the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, as it is every year.

“That seems like a good opportunity for us for the Walt Whitman Bridge,” she said.

She also said the commission might consider mailing out the advertising postcards in January to “jump-start the rentals. We do send one out in the spring, but this could be another one to push it out.”

Burt Wilkins, chairman of the tourism commission, said of the marketing blitz, “It is consistent with last year’s campaign, and we are certainly diversifying in e-marketing.”

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Wilkins, broker/owner of Goldcoast Sotheby’s real estate at 34th Street, asked members of the commission, including Patty Talese, co-owner of Jon & Patty’s Bistro, Bill McGinnity, owner of Cousin’s Restaurant, and City Councilman Pete Madden, broker/owner of Goldcoast Sotheby’s at 34th Street, how business has been over the last few months.

“I’d like to hear how everybody in their different industries is doing,” Wilkins said.

“Downtown is having a booming offseason. Asbury Avenue is bustling,” Talese said. “Everyone I talked to said they had a great September and October and Christmas season. Overall, I think the downtown caught up at least the retailers who did not open back up until July.”

McGinnity, who is also the president of the Ocean City Restaurant Association said, “Some are doing really well, some are shut down. People who are doing takeout are doing well with it. Takeout is the way to go for the next couple of months.”

Both Wilkins and Madden said that the real estate market has been booming.

“We are still doing phenomenal. There is so much interest in real estate in December,” Wilkins explained. “The rentals are slower than we’d like. I am sure with the surge (of COVID-19 cases) it has people concerned, but I think the vaccine is our great hope.”

Madden added, “We are busy real estate-wise, but we do need the rentals to pick up and to let people know to come down.”

Small businesses are expected to see an additional boost from federal legislation. Gillian said that the bipartisan COVID Relief Act is moving forward in Congress and the framework is in place.

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She said that will help small business owners, adding that the Paycheck Protection Program, which helps pay the salaries of employees, is also being extended, according to published reports.

“If this framework goes forward, it will be good news for the business community,” she said. “There will be some really good support going forward.”

The next Tourism Commission meeting will be held, also remotely, at 9 a.m. on Jan. 14.

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